My family and I love to attend the annual Renaissance Faire in our area whenever we can. We even dress the part when we are able to do so. I enjoy the atmosphere, the stands, and of course, the food. (It occurs to me that I have not fully investigated if there are any medieval coffee shops in the shire.)
One of my favorite places to visit at the Faire is the blacksmith. I have a slight affinity for swords and I enjoy watching the blacksmith hammer the iron in his hand into a magnificent weapon. I have never stayed long enough to watch the entire process from start to finish because it is not something that quickly takes place. However, I have been witness to various stages of the blade forming operation and it is hard, hot work. The finished product, though, is beautiful to behold.
The blacksmithing process can stand as a metaphor for life. Everyone is handed some kind of “raw iron” over the course of our existence. This iron comes in the form of hardships and obstacles. Granted, some have heavier burdens than others, but everyone has iron. There is always someone better off than you, but there is always someone worse off than you as well.
We face debilitation when we look at the iron we have been handed in life and simply complain because it is hard. Certainly, it is easier to not engage in the difficult work of shaping the iron, but when we choose the easy route, the iron becomes iron bars. It becomes our prison.
The people who do well for themselves are those who look at the iron they have been handed – infirmity, birth defect, dysfunctional family, mental or emotional conditions, tragedy, etc. – and they temper it into something useful. These types of people are not necessarily stronger than others; they simply choose not to let the iron hammer them. Instead, they hammer the iron into something that will serve them and maybe even others.
There is an account in the Book of John chapter 5 of Jesus coming by the Pool of Bethesda one day to find a man who could not walk. The Bible tells us that the man was in this condition for thirty-eight years. Now, sick people from all around encamped at this particular pool for healing. Jesus comes upon this man and inquires of him, “Do you want to be made well?” (verse 6)
The question Jesus asks of this man seems odd at first. If you read the context of the story, you will find that the man was sitting by a pool where one could periodically experience a miracle. Obviously, he wanted to be healed. Isn’t that why he was there?
However, the response the man gave to Jesus’ inquiry may reveal the reason Jesus asked him the question in the first place. The man looks at the Lord and answers, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” (verse 7) Thirty-eight years of not being able to walk and not once did he make sure to position himself at the most advantageous spot to get into the pool first?
We can be like that sometimes. We know what we need to do, but we fail to actually do it. Instead we rely on some reason as to why we cannot do it, and let us face facts; not doing it is easier. However, remember how I mentioned that the iron becomes iron bars of a prison if we decide not to hammer it into something else? This man had his reason, but he was still trapped with his infirmity. The question Jesus asked him may have been probing far deeper into his true state of mind than what it looked to be on the surface.
What about you? What will you do with your iron? Will you let it beat you up and become your prison? Will you lament that the iron is hard and it is too much work to fashion it? Or, will you grab your hammer and anvil and go through the long hot process of beating that iron into the magnificent tool it can be? The end result will be worth it if you are determined to endure through the crafting.
Until next time, may your coffee and contemplations be rich and fulfilling.