Forged In Fire
“No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me, and I will raise him on the last day.” (John 6:44)
Jesus tells us that His Spirit blows where it pleases, that like the wind, we cannot see it coming. Neither do we know where he might lead us when as submit our mind to his Word in prayer. He comes ‘in the moment’ -when we are not dressed; when we are weak; when we least expect to hear His Voice…
I have been watching a series called Forged in Fire. It is about metalsmiths who form magnificent swords out of common discarded steel. They begin by selecting the combination of metals that will produce the qualities they desire; then heat them in a fire until molten and white; then it is cooled to a blood-red soft ingot, where its impurities have floated to the top forming a black crust; this then flakes off as it is hammered and drawn (stretched) into a shape resembling a sword.
Many trips to the furnace are required before it takes on the desired form. Only then is the blood red sword immersed in a bath of oil, where the quenching process transforms its natural state into a super hard yet flexible material. But this is not the end. It is hammered again for straightness, then ground away at, until a perfect geometry is achieved which has a razor sharp edge to cut while still retaining a spine for the strength to survive a life of shocking blows. Only after many hard hours of labor does the metalsmith’s arm raise up a gleaming work of art.
…And so it was with these images in mind, and reflecting on the morning’s reading from John 6:46, that the Spirit blew through my life-jumbled thoughts and allowed me to perceive, to peak, to glimpse into his Purpose for suffering.
As the raw metal is heated, hammered and drawn into a work of art, so must we be melted, beaten down and ‘drawn by the Father’. Like the steel, we did not ask to be brought into existence -we were chosen. And like the steel, we cannot delight in the hammer’s blow. But unlike the steel, we, with our gift of sentience, must choose to conform to the Divine Purpose which preceded our being, or, cling to our smallness. Either way, we will encounter suffering; but only in the former will our suffering bring us to Eternal Life -where our Creator can say, ‘I will raise him on the last day’ …like a gleaming Work of Art. [To suffer in God's way means changing for the better and leaves no regrets, but to suffer as the world knows suffering brings death. (2Cor 7:10)] Only Faith in the Master’s tender love, will secure a future of Hope… “We know that by turning everything to their good God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those that he has called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
These reflections of suffering brought me back to a moment, decades past, though still present…
It was a painful time –of brokenness and loss. I had just given my life to God, and he, was pulling me out of a deep, dark hole. I was recovering from a life apart from God, and, from the death of my brother Stan. I had a chemistry exam the next morning and tears were keeping me from reading the words on the textbook. What was most tearing at my soul was the profound sadness my mother was enduring. Stan was the second son she had lost, and now it seemed she was lost to grief. I was angry. I could not come to grips with the injustice. Why must my mother suffer for being guilty of love?
It was an overwhelming time. I felt stuck in the hurt. I felt unbearably alone. I turned away from my textbook and just stared the Crucifix on my dresser. It was in this broken moment that the Mercy of God spoke. His Voice issued forth from the Cross. Twice in my life have I heard the Voice of God, both, in times of brokenness. In that darkness he said, “I suffered for you.”
At the time, I did not understand what those Words meant, but they awakened me to a knowing that I was not suffering alone. An Unspoken Truth was instilled into my spirit –that the suffering I bore was also being borne by The One who has walked that Hill before me. Those Words did not carry theological meaning then, only Peace. The hurt was still there, but the weight and anger was lifted. Instead of feeling crushed by the suffering, I strangely felt like it was part of a larger purpose. These were not thoughts in my natural mind, but rather an experience in my soul. The thoughts would come much later.
God does not make us suffer. Suffering is a condition of Life –it is part of the Privilege of being called into Existence. All creation suffers. Mountains are eroded into sand and steel is suffered into swords; animals suffer; innocent children suffer; and we, with our capacity to sin, have an even greater capacity to suffer. The fundamental question of life is not, ‘Why do we suffer?’ but, ‘How can we suffer?’
Jesus, Creator of the Cosmos, who embraced the condition of his creatures, showed us how to suffer. Even more, he bore our suffering for us. On that Cross he took on the Suffering of Humanity –past, present and to come. In assuming our suffering he was consumed into Death. And through his Resurrection, he, who joined himself to our Death, now joins us to his New Life. As we are joined to him, so too, our suffering is joined to his Cross –in a way that is as sacrificial as it is healing.
Through our Faith in the Resurrection, we now have the Grace, the Gift, to transcend our suffering –not to escape it, but to deflect its Death into Life- so much so, that our suffering is Redeemed; Re-Purposed; Transformed; and we can now in truth proclaim the Privilege of participating (as a Mystery Revealed but not grasped) in the Salvific Cross of our Savior. “The Spirit himself and our spirit bear united witness that we are children of God. And if we are children we are heirs as well: heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, sharing his sufferings so as to share his glory.” (Rom 8:16-17)
Jesus, God Incarnate, suffered. So must we -but never alone or without purpose. That we, as creature, may not understand the Creator’s Design should not surprise. That we, in the Pure Love of a Gentle Father, are called into an Existence which demands suffering is a Fearsome Revelation -made Glorious with the Gift of Faith.… ‘No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me, and I will raise him on the last day’ …like a gleaming work of art.