My wife and I recently returned from a vacation to Washington D.C. It was a wonderful trip that really brings history to life. There is simply something special about seeing the actual monuments and buildings that are so representative of our history. On one of our vacation days, we were able to visit the home of George Washington at Mt. Vernon, Virginia. What a beautiful estate with breathtaking views overlooking Washington.
At one particular point of our tour at Mt. Vernon, I noticed a smaller out-building on the estate surrounded by a small crowd of people. As I walked closer, this particular building turned out to be the place where the blacksmith of the day practiced his trade. A modern day blacksmith was demonstrating how to pound horse shoes into the proper shape, much as they had done all those hundreds of years ago. It was fascinating to watch how the metal was heated and then hammered into just the correct shape by the master craftsman.
As I was watching this particular blacksmith practice this long forgotten craft, I was reminded of how God has worked so mightily in my own life sometimes “hammering” me into the shape I have become today. The blacksmith took cold, hard metal and threw it into the hot coals that had been fueled by just the right combination of coal and air. There was just the right amount of each to insure that the fire was the right temperature to heat the metal properly. Too hot and the metal would be too pliable and not useable; too cold and the blacksmith would not be able to mold the metal into the right shape. How many times in my life have I wondered why certain things or certain events or certain trials happened in my life? It was because God knew (and knows) just the right combination of trial and comfort that I need in my life. Too much trial and hardship and I might simply give up; too little trial and hardship and I might become complacent. Our heavenly Father submits us to just the right combination of trials in order to make us moldable in the Father’s hands.
As the blacksmith pulled the heated metal from the fire, he began to hammer and hammer on the anvil until the metal was formed in the perfect shape he desired. It was amazing to watch a piece of perfectly straight, heated metal gradually formed into the shape of a horseshoe. What began as a useless piece of metal was now molded into a usable horseshoe for the protection of some horse’s hoof. The blacksmith could have pulled the heated metal from the hot coals and not touched it with the hammer and the metal would eventually cool and remain the same. The heat of the trial in and of itself is not enough; we must allow the master to mold and shape us. I am sure if the metal could speak, there was no enjoyment in the constant hammering. Over the years, I’ve learned that I have to be receptive to God’s calling and teaching in my life, whatever that might be. The trials I experience are simply preparation for the stretching and bending that waits. Simply going through a trial is not reason in and of itself to cause me to change. There still has to be a willingness to change. The trials prepare my heart for what is coming so that my heart is in the right place for the stretching and growing that awaits me.
In the end, when the finished horseshoe is nailed to the horse’s hoof, the blacksmith completes the final touches to insure a perfect fit. He lovingly takes the horse’s leg and gently uses a rasp to finely tailor the shoe perfectly to the horse’s hoof. After the heat and the hammer, a simple loving rasp is all it takes for a perfect fit. Our Father may send you through the fire and trials of life and the molding and shaping you endure may hurt temporarily. However, the gentle loving arms of our Father will mold and shape you in ways you never dreamed possible making it all worthwhile.