On this day in 1475, Michelangelo was born in Caprese, Italy, near Florence. His father, a member of the declining Buonarroti family, ridiculed his son’s artistic pursuits, believing they were undignified. Michelangelo later noted, “When I told my father that I wished to be an artist, he flew into a rage, saying ‘artists are laborers, no better than shoemakers.’” At age 13, despite his father’s misgivings, Michelangelo was apprenticed to a fresco painter and got paid for his work. Unfortunately, as he began making a good living, his father tapped into his son’s earnings. As the artist’s fame grew, jealous colleagues fiercely criticized his work.
Still, Michelangelo created. Out of marble he coaxed the Pietà, a dramatic carving of the Virgin Mary cradling her crucified son. In his late twenties, he chiseled a 14-foot high statue of David, considered by many experts as one of the greatest sculptures of all time. On his back, Michelangelo painted stunning scenes from the Bible on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. He composed over 300 poems. Later in his life, the great artist served as chief architect of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Michelangelo was a genius, yet it did not exempt him from criticism and hardship. The road to fulfilling God’s purpose is always riddled with potholes. Family members may ridicule your God-given dreams. Competitors may deride your talent. You might set up your own obstacles by downplaying yourself in light of others. Or you may get discouraged when you feel you aren’t progressing in the gifts that you have been given.
When discouragement comes, remember that you are “God’s workmanship.” The New Testament word, poeima, actually means “work of art,” giving birth to our word for poem. God has put as much care in creating you as a musician composes a magnum opus or a poet crafts an immortal epic. You are, indeed, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14 KJV).
Lent is the season of self-denial. Some people give up chocolate or meat. Perhaps some of us need to give up fear—the fear of failure, of stepping out for God, of looking stupid before others. Jesus said we will find ourselves if we lose ourselves (Matthew 10:39). In his youthful years, Michelangelo himself was self-centered, impulsive, and fiercely jealous of his work. As the story goes, after the Pietà was put on public display, the young sculptor overheard onlookers wrongly attribute the masterpiece to another artist. Furious, Michelangelo returned that night to chisel his name into the sash running across the Virgin’s breast. In his later life, having grown wiser and more God-focused, he wrote to his nephew, “Many believe—and I believe—that I have been designated for this work by God. In spite of my old age, I do not want to give it up; I work out of love for God and I put all my hope in Him.”
Michelangelo lost himself in the talents that God had given him and God was glorified. If it’s true that there will never be another Michelangelo, it is also true that there will never be another you. You were created for good works—not to earn God’s good graces, but to reveal His grace to a world starving for transcendent love. Whether you can cook, plant a garden, fix cars, or crunch numbers, any talent can take on a divine glow when yielded to the masterful hand of God.