What do we take away from mountain or valley experiences? Gains? Losses? Treasure? Forged weapons to pull down the enemy--like David, who leaped upon Goliath and used the giant's own sword to remove his ghastly head?
Sword-making is an inspiring process. Toledo, Spain manufactures some of the world's strongest and finest swords. In a process called tempering, artisan swordsmiths measure steel lengths and hand-forge by heating with fire, hammering, plunging into ice water, heating and hammering repeatedly again while plunging into ice water, until the constantly opposite extremes literally re-align the steel atoms. The finale tempered product is infinitely stronger than the original (pre-tested) materials.
In the Gospels, a concerned father comes to Jesus bringing a troubled son who often falls into water or into fire. At times, our life journeys may resemble that child's--with frequent ups and downs, backs and forths, tos and fros. The good news is that our negative and positive experiences--or "water and fire"--temper us and make us more seasoned, much stronger and maybe shinier, as we absorb transforming processes.
The Apostle Paul's life is a case in point. Second Corinthians 11 lists his leadership credentials: perils from robbers, perils from countrymen, beatings, stonings, shipwreck, near drowning--all resulting in Paul saying, "I know both how to be abased and how to abound ... "
One friend of mine says, "No conflict? No plot." That's true for us and our story characters. Like it or not, if we're honest, life's tests and upheavals add strength and interest to our lives too.
We might wish for our children, grandchildren and ourselves to have trouble-free lives. Yet, if that wish comes true, we might be untested, unseasoned and untempered. There would be less for readers to connect with, to sink their teeth into, to be inspired by. Intense stretching times with some accompanying pain makes us more, not less.
Near the end of his life, when Paul the victor had survived countless tests, shaped lives and established churches, he triumphantly states: "For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able ... "
May we demonstrate and communicate that confidence too. Testing and growing equals knowing--building major landmarks in meaningful life journeys. May our written words capture and provide key truths for others.
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