During a visit to speak at a church, I held up my battered wedding ring to illustrate a point about hardship and trials. You see my poor marriage band has seen a lot of trouble. It once was lost (but now it’s found). It’s been broken, patched, patched again, and broken again. With each round of trouble it becomes more solder and less solid.
The ring is brittle and vulnerable because it goes back a long way. The front is very old, a double twist of gold; my great grandmother wore it for her wedding band is what my mum said when she passed it down to me. I had a new shank put on it and it became my wedding ring when I married Rosie. A few years of rough use in the Texas construction business (and a little pulpit-pounding I suppose) have left their mark.
A person who knows about these things told me that my best solution would be to have the ring recast – melt it down and rework it into a completely new one. It would be stronger, brighter and altogether more pure than it is now. All the junk from its long and bruised history would be burned off in the crucible. I was struck by the poetry of an old, beaten-up treasure becoming a new creation made pure and strong by the craftsman’s fire.
Chuck’s article this month mentions Job 23:10: When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold. But the Bible has many other allusions to the goldsmith’s purifying work. Lamenting the sorry state of the priesthood as the Old Testament era wound down, the prophet Malachi describes The Lord as a refiner’s fire, coming to test and purify his servants, the descendants of Levi (Mal 3:2). And Peter compares the endurance of the saints under various hardships to the refining work of fire on gold: . . . these have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:7).
It’s hot in the crucible, and if gold could talk I’m sure my wedding band would express some concerns of its own about the process. It might – fearing the refiner’s fire – even suggest I simply leave it just the way it is, broken and patched, but not really fulfilling its purpose. Its purpose is, of course, to symbolise the bond between my wife and me. But it can’t do that if I don’t wear it, and I can’t wear it in its present condition. I treasure it far too much to leave it the way it is.
God may have us pass through the crucible in any number of ways. Life itself in this fallen world is sometimes all the heat we need, but more often than not there come special times of testing and trial. How we respond to those times of purification can make all the difference. James says we should (against our intuition) regard them with joy, because the testing brings endurance, and that endurance is part of God’s perfecting process (James 1:2-4). He treasures you far too much to leave you the way you are.