Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Refiner's Fire

My mother and I stole a few minutes yesterday for ourselves. With no "don't touch or eat that" children in tow, we stepped into a local antique store just to browse. To my surprise, in the first booth, I saw the same decorative blue and white heart-shaped plate that adorns my wall.

Only this one didn't have a story to tell.

In my dining room hangs a tableau of eight blue and white lacy-edged plates, each a different shape and size. Then, on an adjacent wall, all by itself hangs a single heart-shaped plate.
After its journey, it seemed to have earned a special place in my home.

During the great move to our new home a few months ago, we emptied box after box in rapid succession as I sought to make this house a home. The back porch became a convenient home for the empty boxes. In a few days, it was packed with different-sized boxes thrown atop each other, some stacked atop each other, towering high like angular skyscrapers. To the artist, it looked like a cubist, Picasso-esque vision of what a city skyline might look like.

In a few days, my mother decided it was time to reclaim the porch. The good boxes were folded down and put in the attic. But the great majority of them, we carted to a make-shift burn pile. Sweating against the towering flames alight in mid-day, mid-summer Louisiana heat, she and I fed each box to that fire for over an hour and then left it to burn itself out.

The next day, it started raining and didn't let up for a few weeks. The remaining boxes started piling up on the porch until one dry day, I walked out to burn this smaller second set of boxes. To my surprise, there in the black ash lay the heart plate, stark white in contrast to the charred pieces around it. We had missed it during the unpacking.

Amazingly, the plate was still perfect other than one small chip on its right side and an almost imperceptible crack ran across its face, easily remedied by a little fabric tape concealed against its back.How many fires has this household gone through? How many impurities burned away? How many chips and cracks from the burnings; yet, no one ever notices?

But how much more beautiful now than before.

"This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are my people,' and they will say, 'The LORD is our God.' " (Zech. 13:9).

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