Saturday, September 3, 2022

The Parable of Fire and Glass

Today I am thinking about my life as blown glass.

Several years ago, I visted the Chihuly Glass Museum in Seattle. If you've never experienced the enchantment and whimsy of blown glass, I would highly recommend a trip to this Suessical world.

Years later, my family and I had the further opportunity to visit a glass blowing studio in Maui where I was, once again, drawn in by the artistry and allure of blown glass. This studio, in particular, aimed to capture the beauty, majesty, and motion of the ocean. 

Pictures courtesy Makai Glass


As much as I loved the final pieces (and I did!), I was absolutely fascinated by the process that went in to making the glass. It felt like a carefully choreographed dance as artisans skillfully moved around each other with incredible precision, knowing each step and tool they needed at just the right moments... knowing their end goal from the very beginning. 

Image courtesy of  Makai glass

The glass makers would start with a very small amount of material (a sandy-type substance), rolled on the end of a large pipe, and then stuck it in a blazing hot furnace (2500 degrees!). 

Images courtesy of Makai Glass

Once the glowing, neon-orange orb was pulled out, the glass smith immediately began to blow, roll, bend, twist, and mold it. Just as some semblance of shape would take form, the maker would shove the piece back in the furnace, then, once again, pull out the fiery ball and continue to blow, pull, and bend-- trying to shape it a little more. This process repeated over and over again.


Image courtesy of Makai Glass

Image courtesy of Makai Glass

We saw several iterations of shape and size as the glass blowers continued these same steps. Though the artisan had a plan and exact end-goal in mind, it was impossible for a bystander to tell throughout the process what the end shape or color would be. There were several times when I thought, they were near done and assumed that the piece would be a small, orange globe or bowl, when in fact, there was more work yet to be done. We were surprised when, in the end, the final piece turned out to be a large, multi-hued blue vase. It was amazing to see something that started as grains of sand, fired and blown into something so majestic and beautiful.

As we left the studio with a glass piece in hand, I thought about how the scene I had just witnessed was a literal representation of the refiner's fire.

How, too, are we like raw material in the hands of a master artisan-- 

repeatedly thrust into a furnace of tribulation, only to be pulled out and

further poked, prodded, and molded into something beautiful and new.


Image courtesy of Makai Glass

How often do we long for our troubles to be over? How often do we beg to be left as a lopsided bowl rather than turned into a beautiful vase, capable of holding so much more? How often do we forget that the Master has a plan for our lives and knows exactly what it takes to shape and mold us into the final creation he envisions?


I know this, and, yet, I still find myself crying (begging! pleading!) for reprieve from the fire. Why does it have to be so hot? Why does it have to be so painful? Why do I have to go through it again and again?


Some days it's hard to keep the faith. Some days the fire burns too hot. Some days it's hard to trust the plan and trust the Maker. But what blessings are in store for me as I yield to the Master's hands and let him shape me into something more?