A Day at the Forge
Last weekend, my family and I said goodbye to our normal Saturday activities, donned safety glasses, work belts and hammers and drove to an open forge event hosted by our local blacksmith association. The resident blacksmiths handed us skinny rectangular sticks of metal and announced we would be transforming them into BBQ forks.
Utter incredulity must have shown in my eyes as I eyed the extremely unforklike piece. Would they be handing out magic wands as well? Perhaps it was possible to simply stab a steak with the sharp corner of the metal rectangle and call it a “modern art”?
In spite of my extreme doubt, my partner for the day (my dauntless 13-year-old daughter) seemed completely unfazed, as did the rest of my family. Their confidence caused me to suspect this feat might just be possible. They had, after all, been to this event once before. I was a rank beginner.
And as Darren Bush teaches on his Art of Manliness website, there are 4 things a beginner blacksmith needs:
“ A thing to heat your work, a thing to hold your work, a thing to put under your work, and a thing to apply forces to your work.”
We split up into pairs and got to work. As I began to get a bit more comfortable with the process of heating the steel, working it, and heating it again, I began to notice the spiritual applications of what was happening around me.
The 4 Things A Blacksmith Needs
1. A thing to heat your work
This was my favorite place to be – in front of the forge. It was an uncharacteristically cold day for South Texas and I was grateful for every moment I got to spend standing near the heat source! A hand-crank fan moved air to make the fire hotter, and the glowing bed of coals sat ready to receive the metal and heat it so it could be worked.
In the spirit realm, I’m not naturally drawn to the fire – to the trials used to shape me. Probably you aren’t either.
We don’t want to suffer (or even be uncomfortable!) because God didn’t create us for suffering. He made us for the Garden, before the Fall. He created us for the home Jesus is even now putting the finishing touches on for us. But between now and then, we need to be sanctified, made holy.
If we want to work metal without cracking it, it needs to be hot. We too need the forge fire to heat us up and make us malleable so that God can accomplish His work in us.
2. A thing to hold your work
Hot metal + bare hands = sizzling pain. They say every blacksmith either has been burned or is waiting to get burned. Our 11-year-old son was the family burn victim for the day, unconsciously making a grab for something with his ungloved hand. Ouch! He learned quickly the importance of tongs – something to hold your work. Or gloves on BOTH hands. When you and I are in the fire, our Heavenly Father is the one holding the work – putting us in the heat and removing us at the right time. We are safe in His hands. He doesn’t stick us in the coal and leave us there to be destroyed. He is in control of the entire process, the entire time. And He doesn’t make mistakes and need to scrap His work and begin anew.
His care is infinite, His purposes sure, and His timing perfect.
The anvil is a critical component of blacksmithing. If you don’t believe it’s necessary, try hammering a red-hot piece of metal on your kitchen table and see what happens! The anvil – solid and unmoving and able to take the heat without itself being changed – is the foundation for the work to be done.
I see this foundation in the spirit realm as the knowledge that God is good and that He loves you. This is the only foundation that can take the heat and the hammering without buckling under the pressure.
On it, we can trustfully endure the process without fear, knowing that we are held in the hand of our Father, on the sure and strong place of the knowledge of His loving goodness.
4. A thing to apply forces to your work
Don’t we all love to whack at things with a hammer now and then? I have to admit, my favorite part of making our Christmas peppermint bark is crushing the starlight mints with a mallet. The art of blacksmithing is more about precision and control than about smacking the daylights out of everything, but a good hammer is a basic tool for every smith. I believe God works on us the same way – with precision and control, applying just the right amount of pressure at precisely the place that needs it.
The miracle occurred – the transformation of a stick of steel into a reasonably nice looking and functional tool. It didn’t happen easily and it didn’t happen painlessly, but at the end of the day we were all happy with our creations and looking forward to returning next month.
The miracle happens in our lives too. God patiently and painstakingly conforms us to the beautiful image of Christ as we allow Him to work in us. Over time, we begin to see the wonderful results.
Can we refuse to allow this to happen?
Sure we can.
Trials and tribulations happen to everyone. We don’t get to sign up for the trial of choice or refuse the package at the door.
But we can allow ourselves to become bitter and unmalleable in God’s hands. This does no one any good – it doesn’t get us OUT of the trial, it just ensures that we will likely have to repeat it later!
A better response is humble, trusting acceptance.
Three helpful things to know when you’re in the fire:
- You are safe, even when it hurts. God is in control of how much, how long, and how intense.
- You are loved, and His love means there is great purpose in your trial.
- You are not going to be here forever. Trials always end.
The final results will not be revealed until we are finally home, but when they are, what joy we will know for every moment we submitted and allowed God to perfect us.
I’m praying for you that for the joy set before you, you will patiently endure until the day of His return.
If you would like to read more about how to face the forge fire of trials victoriously, you’ll want to read this excellent post by my friend Leisa Lorenz!
With faith, hope, and love,