“Young Slave” by Michelangelo (1520-1523), Galleria dell’ Accademia, Florence, Italy, Author Jörg Bittner Unna (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Those of you familiar with the perfection of Michelangelo’s “David” or “Pieta” may not know that he created a series of sculptures loosely referred to as the slaves, prisoners or captives.

Art critics argue over the merit of these – the central issue being whether Michelangelo intended them as finished works of art or not.  Details on these statues are vague, chisel marks still clearly visible.

The figures though are striking.  Incomplete, they struggle not only to free themselves from their chains, but from the very stone in which they are encased.

The Scars of Abuse

Like Michelangelo’s captives, the victims of childhood abuse wrestle with the scars of their abuse – low self-esteem, perfectionism, boundary issues, depression, anxiety, PTSD, relationship difficulties, sexual promiscuity and/or dysfunction, addiction, and the rest.  We struggle against the chains binding us, desperate to get free.

The Figure Within

Michelangelo’s entire approach to sculpture was to envision the figure within.  He saw his role as first identifying that figure, then removing unnecessary elements to reveal the image present all along.

Despite our scars, God, too, sees the figure within.  Like a sculptor, He shapes us to an image only He can see.  Bit by bit, He removes unnecessary elements, always aware of the ultimate outcome.

The Sculpting Process

The process is not, however, painless.  Because of that, we wrestle with the Sculptor.  In dark moments, we rage at the chisel and the Sculptor, both.

God’s plans for us are always for good.  Though we may not understand His purpose (and may chafe at His timing), ultimately He promises to fashion us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Without God’s intervention, we like Michelangelo’s captives would remain bound.   Because of it, we are guaranteed freedom and a beauty beyond description.

Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day” (Gen. 32: 24).

Originally posted 3/16/14



Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, domestic abuse, domestic violence, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

16 responses to “Captives

  1. A. White

    Thanks, I didn’t know that about Michelangelo’s work.

  2. Thank you for this, Anna. 😊

  3. Francisco Bravo Cabrera

    Lovely way to weave this wonderful learning experience Anna. I fully agree with you and I would only hope that lessons like these would be taught at our schools. All the best my friend!

  4. Very well written, victims of child abuse are bound by invisible chains around their mind, heart and soul. Freedom from past is what they yearn for in their lifetime.

  5. If I’d ever read about these particular statues, I had forgotten.

    Your application to victims of abuse is quite powerful–and astute.

  6. I didn´t know of these sculptures before like slaves, prisoners or captives. Thank you for this learning experience, Anna. I wish you all the best of the live, Marie

  7. Allan Halton

    When God has finished the sculpting of our lives into the image He has in mind, these sculpted figures become pillars in His Royal Palace.

    I know of at least one reference to them: “That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; That our daughters may be as pillars, Sculptured in palace style…” (Ps. 144:12) One translation I read (can’t find it now) reads, “…that our daughters may be caryatids, sculpted for a palace…”

    So let’s endure the chiseling!

  8. What a vivid analogy of those who are victims of abuse

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.