“…behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction…” Isaiah 48:10
A dear friend of mine has a very unique talent. Of all of the many things he excels in, I recently learned that he is a master glassblower. He himself had never told me that, but his work spoke for itself. A mutual friend of ours ran to me one day and said, “OMG! You MUST ask to see his work! It is incredible!” Humble as he is, he didn’t immediately brag about his work. He merely said, “I’ll just bring some things in for you to see…” I admit I was intrigued by his humble demeanor when describing the finished products. It caused me to wonder. Was his work ugly? Was he embarrassed by what he had made?
It wasn’t until I actually saw his intricate work that I discovered three reasons he was so humble about it. First, they were so extraordinary that they spoke for themselves. He didn’t need to hype them up. Second, it was a work of passion and not a platform that he was doing. He wasn’t trying to get famous. He merely loved what he did. Lastly, the amount of painstaking work and intricate timing that it took to create such art merited respect, not fanfare. It had cost him something. This is where our moment begins.
Israel is a people that I love to study in the Word of God. At first glance, it would appear that they were just spoon-fed, spoiled rotten children who couldn’t seem to get it right. I can mull over the scriptures for hours, humored by all the ways God provided and did wonders for them. But I also shake my head and sigh heavily when I consider how many times they messed up, dropped the ball, and just refused to heed to “The Invisible, Providential God.” How many times did He need to show them His mighty hand; how many ways did He need to prove to them that He is would always be there?
As my friend began to walk me through the journey of glass blowing, I was nearly moved to tears, thinking of the children of Israel-and thinking of my own life. He starts with the proper temperature. Temperature in any act is vital to the outcome of the product. He won’t even begin to do work on his glass until the temperature is right and settled. I thought of how many times we have asked God, like Israel, to remove the heat from the trial. “God, this is too hot! Surely, you have forsaken me! Why is this so difficult right now in my life?” Our truth is that in order to get to the refined creation that we are destined to become, the heat must rise, and the heat must be consistent. Glass is not soft at first. Like us, it starts off hard, rigid, and impossible to mold. But through temperature settings, we find the glass gives more and more of its will away and becomes like Play-Doh in the hands of the one molding it. If you want to become new, you must give up your “you.” Your way, what you thought was right, and what you deemed good must be given to the “Glass Maker” to mold, soften, and shift you from a state of rigidity to pliability.
A point my friend made more than once was that the temperature MUST be right. He assured me that unrelenting glass or a careless glassmaker would cause the once pliable material to pop like a light bulb. Have you ever wondered why things in your life seem to pop, crumble, shatter without warning? Often times that is a given that we have not trusted the Hands that we are in. Trusting God means that we understand His ambidextrous ability to keep his hand on the materials (You) and his eye on the temperature and time settings so that you won’t pop. Things may have shattered; things may have crumbled around you, but you will not break! You are in the hands of a Master artist who knows what He is doing!
Lastly, the process he described seemed arduous and taxing. He explained how you heat up the glass, then stretch it, then heat it, then stretch it, then blow it, then stretch it. Our truth is that those dreams, plans, and goals we have set for our lives will require some stretching. That usually means that we cannot get comfortable in complaining, nor can we assemble false finish lines when we see small progress. Sure, you are becoming. You have not arrived. The stretching humbles you. The blowing agitates the complacent in you. The heat activates those gifts inside of you.
When my friend pulled out the finished masterpieces and placed them before me, he handled them so gently. He knew that the process was long, and the glass was now fragile. Sturdy, complete, beautiful, but in many ways, the glass was yet fragile. We often see people becoming their best selves and want to handle them improperly. But The Master will not allow us to be handled carelessly. He takes invested interest in who handles us. He will allow others to marvel at your “becoming,” but He will also guard and protect your fragile spaces so that you are not handled improperly.
The end of a thing is always so beautiful. But the creator always understands the journey getting there. You are being made. You are becoming more beautiful, more solid, more majestic than you ever imagined. And oftentimes, God will not choose lilies and cotton candy as a means to get you there. The furnace of affliction is not always a bad place. It’s a place of recreation. Fret not the pulling, the blowing, and the heat. God sees the end result of you. The heat is on, but He is in control of it all, and He’s getting the refined version out of you. You’re almost there!