This is a paradigm for us in two senses.
First, the Lord must chip away everything within us that is not Jesus. Yes, everything that is not of the Lord must go. St. Paul said, “I live; no not I, Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). The Lord chips away all in us that is not of Him, so that we may become the image of God in Christ.
Second, there is also a very personal sense. Not only must we become Christ, but we must authentically become our very selves. We are called to reflect Christ, but the Lord has made each of us individually to reflect something particular about Him in a unique way. You and I therefore must become the man or woman that God made us to be.
Sometimes I lament the fact that I am not more like St. John Vianney, or St. Francis Xavier, etc. To that, the Lord might well respond that he already has a St. John Vianney and a St. Francis Xavier; what He needs is a you.
For me, the Lord must chip away everything that is not Charles Pope. He made me (and you) to be a particular reflection of His glory. Ultimately, we are each called to reflect Christ in the particular way that only we can. Part of our journey is to discover our true self, as God has made us to be, and to become that true self. We must allow the Lord to chip away everything that is not of Him, or of the person He made us to be.
This is not an invitation to strange idiosyncrasies or to a hyper-individualized version of the truth. No, God does not speak out of both sides of His mouth. The truth about us will ultimately always be subsumed into the fundamental truth of who Jesus is, in whose likeness God created the human person to be. And thus as the Lord sculpts He is not doing abstract art. Rather, He is working in the context of His revealed truth, while also realizing it in a very particular way in each one of us.
A few final thoughts about carving and chipping away:
First, it is slow and painstaking. Great care and thoughtfulness is required of the artist. And we, who are being sculpted by the Lord, must learn to be patient and allow Him to do His work carefully and creatively. Too often we are impatient. But true art requires that the artist step back and look, work, and then reflect. Give the Lord the time and authority He needs.
Second, there is some bewilderment as well as a kind of pain. Sculpting and chipping away is difficult—even painful—for the subject. As we are being sculpted, we may not know or appreciate what the Lord is doing. We may worry as to what our final appearance will be. But no more than the marble should claim greater wisdom than the sculptor, should we claim a greater wisdom than God, who sculpts us.
The Lord admonishes,
Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, “What are you making?” Does your work say, “The potter has no hands”? Woe to the one who says to a father, “What have you begotten?” or to a mother, “What have you brought to birth?” Thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel and its Maker: Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands? It is I who made the earth and created mankind on it (Isaiah 45:9-12).
We must allow the Lord to do His work. Ultimately, everything that is not Jesus, and everything that is not the person God made us to be, must be chipped away.
In the end, God must be able to say to you, “I simply chipped away everything that was not of my Son, and everything that was not of you, as I made you to be from all eternity.”
Let Him work.