By Beth Demme
What do you know about gold? My knowledge of gold is mainly this: it makes pretty jewelry, like the wedding ring I’ve worn for nearly twenty years.
It turns out there’s a lot more to gold than its beauty.
Gold starts as a rock in the ground. It gets mined —cut— out of the ground. Picture bulldozers and pick axes. The rock pulled from the ground is pulverized into a powder and either roasted at an insanely hot temperature or dissolved in a cyanide solution.
A few years ago my family visited a mining museum in British Columbia. The museum was at an abandoned, but maintained, mine. We rode an old mining train and toured the sorting facilities. There was a lot of great sciencey stuff, but my main takeaway was this:
The raw material was just the beginning. It took a lot of work to make that raw material into something useful.
I think the same thing is true for us.
Maybe you can relate to the gold. Maybe you know what it feels like to be cut away from your foundation.
Maybe your emotions have been pulverized into a powder or cooked beyond their melting point.
Maybe hardship has eroded your sense of self-worth, as if you’ve soaked in a cyanide solution.
When life is hard, it helps to remember two things: (1) true joy is not circumstantial and (2) refinement is a process.
1 – True Joy Is Not Circumstantial
True joy comes from knowing we are loved.
“The great struggle of the Christian life is to take God’s name for us, to believe we are beloved and to believe that is enough.” Rachel Held Evans, Searching For Sunday.
When our circumstances are difficult, it’s tempting to think God doesn’t love us. We may even believe we are so unworthy that God would be justified in choosing not to love us.
That kind of thinking gets in the way of real relationship. Instead of embracing God’s love, we hold God at arm’s length. “Like Adam and Eve, we will go into hiding when God comes near. But instead … we [should] remember that God sought them out, called them to come out of hiding, and provided garments to cover the shame of their sin.” Steve Harper, Five Marks of a Methodist.
God will do the same for us.
Whether we feel ashamed, afraid, or unworthy, God calls us out of hiding. God calls us to be loved and to #liveloved.
Finding joy in our inherent lovability makes perseverance possible and perseverance earns us all the benefits of refinement.
2 – Refinement Is A Process
If we are like gold, we’re on our way to something better. Refinement is hard, but it makes us stronger. Beauty and value can come through pain and sorrow, guilt and shame.
At the end of the refinement process, gold is not only beautiful and strong, it’s also malleable.
Some people are hardened by their hard times. Those who are like gold are different.
After gold is cut, pulverized, burned, and dissolved, gold is strong, but soft. Refined gold resists rust, tarnish, and corrosion, but is pliable enough to be formed into everything from beautiful jewelry to coins to bars to protective gear used by astronauts and heat shields on satellites.
Refinement transforms gold into something useful and beautiful. When we persevere, we can undergo a similar transformation, revealing the best of ourselves along the way.
I will never look at my wedding ring the same way again. It’s a lovely gold ring, but I need to remember it didn’t start out that way and its path to perfection was anything but easy.
What about you? Do you let circumstances dictate your joy? Do you feel like you are in a refinement process? Do you sense God calling to you? Tell me about it. I’d love to hear from you in the comments, in an e-mail, on Facebook or Twitter.
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