And I will put this third into the fire and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, they are my people; and they will say, The Lord is my God. Zechariah 13:9
In my growing up days in Southern Indiana, we frequently took family trips to Spring Mill State Park in Mitchell, IN, where there is a working mill and a pioneer village complete with a general store, a blacksmith, and several houses to tour. On these trips, I would purposely “get lost” so I could pretend to be a pioneer girl, with skirts and petticoats and my schoolbooks buckled together with a leather strap…I had detailed visions of what pioneer life would’ve been like for me: Laura Ingalls Wilder made over.
My favorite stop on the tour of Spring Mill was the blacksmith.
The hammer strikes the hot metal placed on the anvil, ringing loudly with each throw. The smith takes the tongs and turns the work piece over, throwing the hammer against the other side before pushing the metal back into the hot, fiery forge. Sparks fly up and over and around the metal inside, softening it so that it can be formed by the hammer. What was once a hunk of metal is transforming into a useful tool.
Recently, these memories of visiting a blacksmith’s forge as a child has new significance to me. Over the summer, I took stock of all the changes I’d faced in my life, and all the changes that had happened within me. And I heard God give me a new word: forge.
When I heard this word, back in July, I thought, yes, I am forging. I am forging a new life. I could easily leave this city. But yet, here I am, forging forward though gradually.
However, I have accepted that this is probably only half of what God meant in giving me this word. This past year has felt much like being transformed, reshaped…which has included painful trips into the fire and the sting of the hammer as it shapes me into the new die cast for my life.
Could it be that entering the molting hot forge of this past year has provided not only transformation, but healing? I talk a lot about transformation because I believe that God is in the business of transforming: through pain and ruin, suffering, reality, encounters, awareness…but one thing I am only beginning to understand about myself is how I’ve been refined through the past year; how I’ve been transformed through refinement. What if this transformation through refinement is actually healing, the most painful healing I’ve ever known? Is that why I’m still here, still forging ahead?
I had dinner with a dear couple in late November. They know my story inside and out, upside and down, and the gentleman asked me, “How is it that your relationship with God has flourished through this past year?”
I literally did not know how to answer him. He was essentially asking me how I still believed in God after everything that had happened, things that could’ve made any belief in anything very impossible or stunted at the least.
I looked at him and shrugged, “What else is there?” I asked.
What else is there? If there isn’t God, what else is there?
I think I would not love myself had God not placed me in the forge over and over to soften all those inflexible parts of my heart. I don’t think I would have a better understanding of who I am had God not used a hammer on me to shape me into who I’m supposed to be now; the who I was back then taking on new shape like globs of liquid metal. The process of transformation can come out of pain, but the process itself is actually pretty painful, and for it to be real transformation, I think it has to be painful.
If there isn’t God, and the fire, and that hammer, there isn’t refinement; there isn’t transformation.