My husband and I have developed the habit of reading out loud together. We recently completed The Work Of His Hands, The Agony And The Ecstasy Of Being Conformed To The Image Of Christ by Ken Gire.
In his prologue Mr. Gire said,”The Work Of His Hands focuses more on the everyday circumstances that chip away at the sometimes stubborn stone of the self to conform us to the image of Christ.” As part of his research for the book, he studied photographs of Michelangelo’s sculpture, The Pieta. He explained that his personal reflections on the photographs “not only helped shape this project but also my thinking of what it means to be conformed to the image of Christ, both individually, as a person, and collectively, as the Body of Christ.”
Mr. Gire’s profound, small book has dramatically impacted my vision of what it looks like to be conformed to Christ. As a Christ follower who grew up in the Protestant tradition, I have spent a lifetime gazing upon empty crosses, rather than on crucifixes, which perhaps has been a shame.
To say I was shocked by the idea of looking like my Lord’s broken, wounded, bleeding dead body across his mother’s lap is no mere exaggeration. I was recoiled by the idea, even when the thought was a metaphor, rather than a contemplation of being martyred for my faith in the one who died for me.
I find my feelings surprising, since a string of scriptures, calling me to die, pop up in my mind quite readily – the first being, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2;20) I want to cooperate with Almighty God, The Father, in His plan to make me like His Son. I am thrilled by the prospect of one day being good like Jesus, of sharing His Glory in Glory. That image excites me. The image of the Glorified Jesus is my default image when I am reminded that the goal of my salvation is to be conformed to His image. Now The Pieta intrudes with another image that replaces the former. I am being called to reset my mind with a new, disturbing default image.
Ken Gire’s book is now setting on the shelf of a bookcase, but his penetrating study of The Pieta remains with me, as I ponder each day what it means to die with Christ in my daily life, what it means to look like Him today.
I am reminded of Paul’s words in the third chapter of Philippians, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” It is my prayer.