I recently read these lines in one of those novels that we female types enjoy from time to time: “Find someone to love and pour your heart and soul into it. Some people were like pottery. They had been tested in a fire just hot enough to make them capable, but perhaps not yet durable. But…was fine porcelain. Delicate, yet purified in white-hot flame reserved for those who would stand every test thrown at them.”
Ah, yes, we love those lines, and, in our dreams, we hope for and imagine someone who will be that prince who comes for us and takes us off to his kingdom to live happily ever after.
If we discover the prince who chooses us or whom we choose, does not quite fit that description, we can become very disenchanted. We may start to wonder if the prince is a frog, but the truth is that few of us will marry a prince in real life. We will marry a mortal with various flaws and imperfections much as we are also.
But there is also another truth.
There is a Prince who has done just that and will one day soon return to take us to His Kingdom to rule and reign with Him forever. And He did and does love us and has poured His heart and soul into us, His body was broken, and blood poured out for us. We hear or read that and nod in agreement, but barely know what that means. It is incomprehensible when we reflect on it.
The challenge for us is that though betrothed, we are still mortal and laced through with flaws and imperfections. To be prepared for that day of ruling and reigning, we must be refined. Peter talks about that:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”1 Peter 1:3-7 (ESV)
We are mortal, made of the dust of the earth, fashioned of clay it would seem. Clay is soft at the outset and unable to be of much use in that state until it is shaped on the wheel of a potter into the design he or she has in mind. Jesus is the potter and we are the clay, but once shaped in the design He has we must be fired to be purified and made fit for use.
Life on this earth tests us in many ways and forms whether by disease, evil, heartbreak, or any number of options we face as the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve whose enemy still seeks to claim us from the Prince who lives in our hearts. Who can say how many times our Prince allows that process to happen? He knows the design and purpose. In that we must trust.
To a mortal potter the firing happens at least twice. The first time the high temperature vitrifies the clay enough so when the finishing touches of glaze are applied, they adhere correctly. The temperature in the firing rises slowly to dry out the clay greenware. The bone-dry clay is fragile so the temperature of the firing must be just right and at the exact speed of increase to drive out everything in the clay that is not pure.
This process results in the clay now being changed forever.
The clay is now less fragile, but still not as durable as is needed. A second firing is needed after the potter applies the glaze. The skilled potter knows just how quickly the temperature of the second firing can take place and to what degree to bring the clay and glazes to maturity. (Do we get the metaphor? The human potter is bringing the clay to maturity…so is the Lord accomplishing in His refining of us.)
When this process is complete and the pot is cooled, what is the result?
The fire has caused a remarkable change in the original clay. The pot has been changed from a soft, fragile substance into a delicate, rock-hard substance resistant to many of the things that would have destroyed the clay. It is sealed against all that may come against it.
How powerful a picture He has painted for us when scripture refers to the potter, the clay, the testing and firing.
“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”Job 23:10 (ESV)