I love jewelry. My kids know it’s all over when we’re walking through any shopping area and my eye catches a jewelry display. I especially love crafted jewelry, and silver is my favorite metal.
I’m drawn to the beauty of curving, weaving strands of silver, dotted with jewels or stones or beads, or impressed with delicate markings, or shaped into intricate designs. Rings, bracelets, earrings, necklaces. . . . I’ve picked them up at vendor booths, on beachside boardwalks, in bookstores on college visits -- somehow I find silver in the least likely places -- or it finds me.
The beauty of silver isn’t accidental, and it certainly doesn’t come about if the ore is left untouched. As long as it remains in its found condition, it will be no more useful to the silversmith than any other rock. It is hard, unyielding, and impenetrable, and its beauty hides within the crust of the dross.
The ore must be managed and crafted with skill and talent, but also pressure and intensity. The skill and talent comes from the crafter. The pressure comes from the crushing process of the ore, and the intensity from the heat of the refiner’s fire.
A silversmith must watch over the process closely, especially when the silver is in the fire to make sure it reaches that ideal condition where the dross has been burned off, but the silver is not damaged. It comes out malleable, pliable and ready to be molded and put into service for the making of delicate jewelry, or utensils, or weaponry, or coins, or decoration. Whatever use the Refiner has in mind for the silver, it must undergo these processes of affliction.
19th-century preacher William Nicholson said, “Christ melts and softens his people by the furnace of affliction, and by his Spirit. The heart was hard, refractory, and unwilling before. Now it is soft, yielding, and obedient.” Zechariah 13:9 says, “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.’”
Our only hope for heaven is to surrender to the softening work of affliction (Job 23:16). Thankfully we are not alone in the trial, for God is with us. Like a skilled Refiner -- a good Refiner -- he watches the fire to assess how it is making us more like Christ; he doesn’t leave us in too long, yet nor does he remove the affliction from us too soon.
“‘When you pass through the fire, I will be with you.’ [Isaiah 43:2] He sits there totemper the heat according to the infirmities and weakness of his children. He sits there to comfort them, and to carry on the process — until he discerns in their souls, in their tempers, and in their practice — the reflection of his own image.” (Nicholson)
And that's when we're beautiful.
** Five Minute Friday (FMF) is a weekly event hosted at the website of Kate Motaung wherein participants are given a single word prompt every Thursday evening, which remains active for one week. How to play: write for 5 minutes on the thoughts, memories, impressions, reflections, aspirations, hopes, beliefs, convictions, or whatever, that that prompt word brings to mind. Set a timer, write without worry about spelling or grammar or typos, and stop when the timer goes off (no cheating). The rules are here. It's free, it's non-committal, and it's easy to participate, so come to the #FMFparty with me! This week, the word was REFINE.
Laura England Miller