In the strong fires of a forge, rigid, unbendable iron becomes molten and malleable. While I have known this, a field trip with my fourth grader to Old Town San Diego brought these truths to life this week.
Truth to be told, sometimes I check out mentally during field trips to survive as an introvert in the midst of the madness; however, the skilled and winsome blacksmith commanded everyone’s rapt attention including mine.
We watched in wonder as the blacksmith pumped the massive bellows to add oxygen, thereby heating up the already hot fire. In amazement we watch the transformation of rough and solid iron to a substance that could be shaped by the hammer and the anvil into innumerable things from fish hooks to brands to chains to candle sticks.
While the kids could not help but make parallels to Minecraft, my mind went immediately to the forge of our loving Heavenly Father.
I have a rigid, immovable will most of the time. I don’t bend easily, and I am most certainly not prone to yield and submit to the shape of His perfect will.
Each morning, as much as I hate to admit it, I awake with a stiff will. Daily and even moment by moment, the Lord has to warm my will in the fires of His love. Sometimes, when my will is particularly unyielding, He pumps the bellows of afflictions or interruptions or inconvenience to soften my soul.
When my soul is finally red hot, He proceeds to hammer and shape my malleable will into the shape of His will, perfectly ordered by Him, imperfectly understood and received by me. I wish there was another less painful, less uncomfortable way to be made cruciform.
I watched the blacksmith, whose hands and face were covered in the black soot and residue, talk with passion and joy about his art. He loved what he did, as even the most casual passerby could gather. He spoke with excitement and anticipation about the myriad of ways the iron could be molded and shaped, about how there was no limit to the amount of reheating and reshaping of iron objects.
I thought of our Heavenly Father, covered in the soot and residue of our sin and stubbornness, gently and artfully placing the all-too-often iron wills of His purchased possessions, His people, into the blazing fire of His nearly-consuming love.
I thought of His intent and purposes, not to harm or incinerate, but to warm and shape and form each soul and will with great care and perfect execution what was necessary for each day, each moment, each season.
I watched the blacksmith powerfully hammer and tug and twist and pull the molten iron. If sentient, the iron would surely have resisted such contortions and begrudge him. I know I cry out all the time, inconsolable iron, indicting the very One who has chosen me and has plans to conform me to His better purposes.
We saw steam rising, as the heat transferred from the burning iron form to the water, leaving the object cooled and hardened, ready to be used. As he placed the still-sizzling, newly formed pieces into a barrel of cold water, I remembered with relief many moments of temporary release from the fires of forge.
When Christ was on the earth, He spoke to His people in ways they could understand, using timely yet timeless examples of agriculture and politics. Yesterday, in the midst of the mundane mid-week duties of field trips and parenting, God offered me a living parable.
Ironically, I had begrudged Him just that morning, not wanting to give up time during an insane week to head to another field trip. My soul resisted, but He graciously allowed me to overcome my selfishness so that He speak to me through living images.
Oh, how I long to become familiar with the forges of the Father, to learn to welcome the bellows and the burning temperatures that make my soul malleable in His powerful yet nimble hands. How I long to be an instrument made useful thousands of times over to my Father, the artist and the arranger of all things.