Ovid (BC 43-17 AD), writer of classic ancient Roman poetry said this in one of his poems in Latin: “Materiae autem praestet, opus fac.” As we all know, that our understanding in English all depends on the translator. John Dryden rendered it this way: “The matter vied not with the sculptor’s thought,” and another wrote, ”The work of art was finer than the material.” But A. S. Kline translated it thus: “The workmanship exceeded the matter.”1
No matter which one we choose, the meaning is still the same: take something of inferior material and make it into a superior product. If that relates to taking a slice of an old Red Wood tree and making into a beautiful coffee table, or an old rundown former factory and remodeling it into upscale apartments, it also can apply to life.
Maybe our height, weight, hair color, skin color or facial features make not pass a screening test for a Hollywood movie, that still doesn’t mean we can’t take what we have and transform it so that when people look at us they marvel at how well we’ve done with what we were given.
But it goes deeper than that. Perhaps we weren’t raised in a highly functional family with model parents or were given the opportunity to attend the best schools or even get into college, but these are not the only forces and factors that shape our lives, attitudes, mindset, talents, virtues, and character. Like a potter who takes a clump of ordinary clay and molds it into a beautiful vase that sells for a high price, so can the One who made us in the first place, do the same.
I heard this poem many years ago, and I’m sure you’ve heard it too, but the message is still loud and clear.
Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer thought it scarcely worth his while to waste much time on the old violin, but held it up with a smile; “What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried, “Who’ll start the bidding for me?” “A dollar, a dollar”; then two!” “Only two? Two dollars, and who’ll make it three? Three dollars, once; three
dollars twice; going for three..”But no, from the room, far back, a gray-haired man came forward and picked up the bow; Then, wiping the dust from the old violin, and tightening the loose strings, he played a melody pure and sweet as caroling angel sings.
The music ceased, and the auctioneer, with a voice that was quiet and low, said; “What am I bid for the old violin?” And he held it up with the bow. A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two? Two thousand! And who’ll make it three? Three thousand, once, three thousand, twice, and going and gone,” said he. The people cheered, but some of them cried, “We do not quite understand what changed its worth.” Swift came the reply: “The touch of a master’s hand.”
And many a man with life out of tune, and battered and scarred with sin is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd, much like the old violin, A “mess of pottage,” a glass of wine; a game – and he travels on. “He is going” once, and “going twice, He’s going and almost gone.” But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd never can quite understand the worth of a soul and the change that’s wrought by the touch of the Master’s hand.
Myra ‘Brooks’ Welch
More recently, Bill and Gloria Gather wrote this beautiful song:
If there ever were dreams
That were lofty and noble
They were my dreams at the start
And hope for life’s best were the hopes
That I harbor down deep in my heart
But my dreams turned to ashes
And my castles all crumbled, my fortune turned to loss
So I wrapped it all in the rags of life
And laid it at the cross.Something beautiful, something good
All my confusion He understood
All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife
But he made something beautiful of my life.
Does this sound like fanciful thinking? Is it some pie-in-the-sky idea? If one were to think so, they must then convince over 2.18 billion Christians around the word that it’s not true. – Dr. Robert R Seyda
1 Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Fifth Edition, Printed for G. and W. B. Whitaker, et. Al, London, 1822, Bk. 2, Line 5, Translation by p.48