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Shaping Lives For The Future

May 4, 2015

The late Henry Nouwen reflected on in interesting story in his book, Clowning in Rome.  A young child wandering through his neighborhood came across a sculptor patiently chiseling away at a large block of marble.  The child returned the following day and saw the sculptor had chiseled even more of the marble, to the point where one could begin to see some type of vague form emerging.

The young child went away on vacation for several weeks.  When the family returned from their trip, the child walked down the street to the sculptor's studio.  The artist was still patiently chiseling away, but it was clear that most of the work had been completed.  What the child observed from this massive marble stone was a beautiful striking lion that looked so life-like that it actually frightened the child. With youthful innocence, the child turned to the sculptor and asked, "How did you find the lion in the marble?"  The sculptor paused and said, "I found the lion in the marble because I saw it in my heart."

The sculptor in this story had a goal and used his abilities to create a work of art.  The sculptor also had a vision of what could be accomplished with time, patience, and hard work.  Because the sculptor kept that vision, a lifeless mass of stone turned into a useful, enduring monument.

This story could serve as an analogy of the way God, as the sculptor, works in our lives chiseling and shaping us into the image of Christ.  The Lord may use instruments and settings in this process, including the home, the workplace, the church, and meaningful relationships.  Another tool that the Lord uses in the lives of people is Christian higher education.  During the years that students spend at Christian colleges and universities, they have the opportunity to see their lives shaped into useful tools that can be used to influence the church and the world.

There has been considerable debate in higher education circles as to the purpose of a college education.  Is the purpose to teach a person to make a living or is it to teach one to be a person of character?  Although Christian institutions are certainly committed to conveying valuable information or truth, and also focused on vocational preparation, they are not merely a stopping point so that students can acquire a skill, obtain a degree, and secure gainful employment.  

A Christian college or university provides a unique education for students.  It offers an opportunity for students to gain a greater understanding of themselves and where they fit into God's divine plan, to attain professional goals, and most of all, to be shaped into useful tools for God's purpose.  It is not just preparation for life, it is life.  Students can not only find the lion in the stone, they can see the lion (potential for service) in their hearts.

Larry J. McKinney
Higher Education Consultant

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