As a child I was always fascinated by watching glass-blowing. The whole process of seeing the glass being heated in the fire until it was glowing, incandescent, a thing of dangerous beauty. And then seeing it being changed, shaped, transformed by a skilled craftsman, blowing it and turning it until it became what it was intended to be.
You can see where I’m going here, right? 🙂
But it’s only recently that I thought about actually being that glass: it’s not a comfortable process; it hurts at times! Again and again it is placed in the fire until it is soft enough to change – malleable – then and only then can the inner beauty of the material come out.
I went to our local music festival recently and one of the activities on offer was a huge banner with ‘Peace, Hope and Love’ blanked out with tape. Children (and big children of all ages!) were invited to throw paint-filled balloons at this so it was covered with a mass of chaotic and messy colour – then the tape was peeled off to reveal the words in contrast. You get the idea. (See below for an example revealing a cross!) Well, one of my friends remarked on the irony of ‘peace, hope and love’ emerging from the act of something been thrown at it! But I thought to myself, isn’t that just what life is like? Life can and very often does throw things at us – and I believe God uses those events to change and shape us for our good and the good of those around us.
I thought of the story of Stephen Sutton – a young lad diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 15 and who lost his battle earlier this year at the age of just 19. See stephensstory.co.uk for the full story, and especially watch the video on the home page.
It wasn’t just the fact that he set himself the target of raising £100,000 for teenage cancer and ended up raising over £4 million … it was the lad himself. In the midst of that situation he found a wealth of positivity and a determination to inspire – and inspire he did! An incredibly sad story in many ways, and I can’t imagine what he – or his family – went through over that time – but the over-riding image the world has of him is of the infamous ‘thumbs-up’ and a message that whatever you are going through, you need to live life to the full, not for what you can get but for the difference you can make. An inner beauty brought into stark relief by the pain and suffering he was going through.
Coming to the end of a school year is a bit like that – but on a far smaller and less life-changing scale – a time for looking back and reflecting on what has been really tough at times – the sleep lost, the tears shed, the worries about what on earth I’m doing, day to day – but also on how far I’ve come (by the grace of God.) My journey hasn’t been anything like Stephen’s – and not like any number of people’s journeys. But it has been transformative. Looking back, I can see how I’ve grown – in patience (still working on that one), in dealing with difficult situations, in perseverence especially.
Of course, the material undergoing heating and shaping (whether it be glass,clay, or precious metal) has no choice – but we do. We can either fight against the process of being changed, bemoan our lot, rail against the injustice of it all to God, our creator (who I’m pretty sure knows what He’s doing!) – or we can try to see the pattern in it all, see the rough edges being knocked off, see the way in which we we’re being reformed – or re-formed – into a thing of beauty.
As 1 Peter 1 v 6-7 puts it (in the NIV):
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.
We are works in progress – not made yet – but on our way!
Bible passage from: https://www.biblegateway.com/
Pics 1 + 2: https://everythingneat.wordpress.com/tag/glass-blowing/; Pic. 3: http://www.pinterest.com/RaquelMorales5/art/; Pic. 4: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-27408818; Pic. 5: https://poetrybydeborahann.wordpress.com/tag/refined/