I recently started a new job here at Church at Charlotte and in the desk drawer my predecessor had left a few odds and ends. In addition to paperclips and Post-It notes, one of the items is a Rubik’s Cube, a freebie from some vendor in the past, with—if I ever were to solve it—their logo emblazoned on one side, I’m sure.
The other day, as I was reading through a blog post I needed to edit, my fidgety fingers found the Cube and began to turn sections about, seeking that elusive solution of even one side all the same color. I glanced down after a few moments and saw that I had managed to match six of the squares on one side—navy blue covered 6/9 of the surface. I got excited for a moment, thinking that perhaps I would this time be successful in my task.
Then I looked for the other navy squares. There they were: scattered across three other faces of the cube.
To move any one of them, I would have to destroy my side of six matching squares.
I gave up then. I had a blog to edit after all, and my mind has never excelled in the spatial reasoning required to solve a Rubik’s Cube. But the dilemma struck me as oddly similar to one we often face in life as we try to grow as followers of Christ: to create, we must so often destroy.
Perhaps it would be better to put that in passive voice: To be created, we must so often be destroyed.
Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come!” It’s the already-not yet conundrum all over again. The old has been destroyed, and the new created. But at the same time, we are constantly being shaped and formed by our Creator to become more like Him. To create humility in us, He must destroy our pride. To create joy, He destroys bitterness. To create love, He destroys hatred. To create generosity, He destroys selfishness. Over and over again, we are being destroyed so that we may be created anew.
God seems to use this pattern often in Scripture. He destroyed the ways that the nations approached their gods (Gen. 11) and created a new way of covenant relationship between God and man (Gen. 12). He destroyed the old structures of Israel’s society and created new structures, going so far as to welcome a sinner at the table of a Pharisee (Luke 11).* He destroyed death itself and created new Life in resurrection (1 Cor. 15). And in the end, He will destroy this very earth upon which we walk and create a New Earth, far bigger and deeper and more real than anything we can ever imagine (Rev. 21–22).
Over and over again, we are being destroyed so that we may be created anew.
There’s an ancient Japanese art form called Nihonga in which the pigments for painting are made by crushing semi-precious stones and metals into fine powder. It seems like sacrilege to crush a malachite or azurite stone; most of us would be more likely to cut and polish them and make jewelry. But then you see the artwork of someone like Makoto Fujimura, who uses Nihonga, and you realize that to create such beauty, he had to destroy those things.
The hard things, the difficult things, the aches and groans we feel in this world, are often the very things God uses to destroy us. But He is creating something New. And that is good news.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
–2 Corinthians 4:7-9
* In his book Culture Making, Andy Crouch talks about Jesus moving “the horizons [of Israel’s culture] with abandon” (Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press. 2008. p. 138).
Image is a detail of Makoto Fujimura’s painting, “Tree Grace.”