Being fired is good.
Last Friday, my birthday, a dear friend took me to meet a wife and her husband—a potter and an iron man. Their home and its grounds are a glorious work of art. Perennials abound, interspersed with ceramic birdhouses in shapes of whimsical flying pigs. Bubbling rock fountains. Feeders hanging elegant from beautifully curved and twisted shepherd hooks. Tiled garden benches. Landscape light fixtures. Birdbaths.
My friend and I admired all as we walked stone path leading to front door. And then we entered the potter’s studio. Amazing works of art lined shelves and hung from walls. Ceramic and iron, fragile and strong, coming together to make beautiful, to make useful. My friend asked me to choose two mugs. She wanted to gift me for my birthday. I had already been gifted by our walk together through outdoor museum of art all around.
Art moves me. All of the arts. Something about the creative genius of God pouring through people soothes my soul and excites simultaneously. Great art helps us reach higher, dig deeper, connect with the divine source of all creation.
Their souls soft and welcoming, Potter and Iron Man gave us a tour of their studio and forge—the cream colored brick kiln—the massive iron furnace. She had clay on her fingers, some wiped on her shirt. He wore clear goggles, protecting eyes from flame, and a full apron to guard against sparks. She molds with her hands. He pounds with his hammer. They shape until their work is done to their liking, to their purpose, to their plan. She fires to complete. He fires to begin. Both fire for good. But the heat is the same. Soft vessels of clay and hard pieces of iron must be fired, heated high, to make art—to make beautiful—to make useful.
And I thought about furnace and kiln and works of art. I thought about purpose. I thought about heat—about firing—about confinement in brick ovens and fiery furnaces. I thought about how God molds and makes each of us, His highest artistic achievement. And I thought about how God allows the pain of pounding and firing—how God allows pain to soften and strengthen for holy purpose.
The day before my birthday, I found myself in the furnace of softening, in the kiln of strengthening, spiritually speaking.
It was crunch day. No more writing this piece of manuscript after today. Draft of a memoir, finally on paper, would be sent the next day, no matter what. And I could feel the anxiety rising like a furnace thermometer. I started to sweat, so to speak. I felt confined by deadline. And the thoughts surrounded me like flames of a furnace.
Was I writing what God wanted me to write? Was it good enough? Should I edit more? Rearrange more? Delete? Add? Pieces of my life didn’t fit as I liked. Do they ever?
And then came the voices—the loud, taunting voices from the fiery pit of Hell.
You’re no good. You’re wasting your time. You should be with your family, with your friends, not writing some silly manuscript no one will ever read.
I’m not schizophrenic. I’m fully grounded in reality. But the reality of a close walk with Christ is this . . .
When we want to follow Christ with all our heart, soul, and mind, often the mind becomes a fiery furnace. And furnaces either destroy or transform. Which do we want? Will we melt down or will we soften and become shaped like Christ? This is truth . . .
It often takes fiery softening to bring a mind in line with the thinking of God. We are hard objects, iron-willed, in need of softening, often in the furnaces of life. But once the will and mind are softened, we can be formed—transformed. No power of Hell can stand against a work of art in God’s hands.
So how do we do this, if I will to? How do I take every thought captive for Christ?
Know His word. Pray His word. Live His word.
Prayer is the kiln of strengthening. Prayer fires us up. Prayer strengthens.
When life heats up, pray God’s word.
So I did.
I identified all the thoughts coming at me as iron arrows with sharp flint tips. And I prayed against them, in the powerful name of Jesus. I could feel them bouncing off, not penetrating. Feeling stronger, I kept praying, kept calming. And I was able to write free.
And I kept praying truth. Truth breaks down strongholds and fortifies protective barriers. I kept praying God’s word that tells me who I really am—a beautiful work of art in the making—loved completely, wildly—redeemed—becoming refined—protected—guided. And the fiery furnace temperature started decreasing. I could feel the cool breath of God gently breezing through my heart and mind.
God is still working on me. Art is a process. And though I will certainly find myself in fiery furnace of softening and hot kiln of strengthening throughout my days on this earth, God will use all heat for good. Because He is good. And His holy hand is on the temperature gauge and the clock. Because I am His precious porcelain, He will neither use too much or too little heat. He knows exactly what this vessel needs to form me into His liking—into a vessel He can use for His holy purpose of love—into a vessel who can receive, in greater degrees, the full extent of His love.
What will become of the writing? The greater, more important question is this . . .
What will become of me—God’s work of art?
Thankfully, we know the answer . . .
In the hands of God, only masterpieces are made.