“Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.”Theodore Roosevelt
Welcome to the second installation with the Righteous Way priorities, I’m walking through an alignment of priorities that the productively faithful should consider when gauging your efforts. Last week we covered the first of five priorities, The Transcendent – directing your highest priority above so everything below is well-ordered and designed with a purpose.
Our second stop when ordering our priorities comes to ourselves. I’ve settled this into the second tier despite the urge to place it lower in pursuit of selflessness. However, on one hand, it’s important to realize that we are instruments and that to be of service as an instrument, we must be formed. We can’t give what we don’t have. On the other, we are born into life and spend our formative years in singlehood. For the young and unsettled, singlehood can be made intentional in our preparation for our Vocational callings of serving our family, flock, or profession.
I love the imagery in Scripture of refining, “The refining pot is for silver the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests hearts,” (Proverbs 17:3), “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction,” (Isaiah 48:10), or the familiar “Iron sharpens iron,” (Proverbs 27:17). It’s part of the love letter from our Creator who knows us too well, our Blacksmith. We will be formed one way or another, so who is doing the formation in your life?
Raw Ore – We don’t come onto life, thankfully for our mothers, fully grown. We spend our early years in formation by our families, religions, schools, communities, and various inputs. Everyone is handed an experience to start with – some better than others. No matter the starting point, that isn’t the finished race. We eventually claim ownership over our life whether we’re ready or not. When we do, we pick up the reigns and start steering. What we start to determine for ourselves is how we’re going to spend our time, effort, and love moving from ownership to death. Maybe you are recognizing a need for redirection or you can state the moments when you set your feet and began your direction.
Heat & Hammer – You’re going to be formed one way or another in life – when we hear the call on our heart from Above, life looks much different. Life isn’t just about how we can pursue the next enjoyable moment or comfort zone, a way to wish away the hard times. But suffering in life can be formative in making us a more powerful instrument of service even in the face of evil. It’s a symptom of a fallen world. When we think “God, why did this happen to me? Don’t you love me?”, the answer is, without a doubt, He does. God walks with us even in the hardest of moments, He will not abandon us. But despite whatever we get hit with, we can see the goodness that can shine on the other side. When you take a 30,000-foot view of your life, you can see how hard moments may have struck you into something different than you were before, but how can you use that for good? How have you grown through even painful hits? Where did the heat of the moment reveal cracks that need to be healed in an even greater way? Just like iron, heat and hammer can bring out the impurity to make the ore strong. We are also generally shaped into what our purpose will be in this process, what capabilities and talents are grown in this?
Whetstone – After a blacksmith has hammered the instrument into what it’s going to be used for, it’s time to hone it, a more careful sharpening. When making a sword, a blacksmith will use a whetstone to create a sharp edge. It will smooth out the roughness and create a shine. In the same way, we get greater clarity for the purpose we have been designed for – maybe this is greater professional or educational training, a seasoning of confidence in dating, or a maturing of an idea. What do you see in your life as an advancing trait, skill, opportunity, or call?
The Sword – Insert any analogy you like – Maybe you’re not a sword, maybe you’re a hammer to form others. Maybe you see yourself as sickle for harvesting. Use your imagination. I like the image of a sword. I trained and competed for twelve years in fencing, I’m familiar with its usage, I know how it’s handled offensively and defensively in conjunction with the strategy of the game. I think in the same way I’m designed for proverbial battle. I see how my formation continues, but so does my usage. The analogy can certainly be used in many different directions, in some ways, we’re never done learning or being formed but at some point, you go from formation to use. Not everyone is a sword or a hammer or a whatever – everyone is formed for their own reason. When we allow ourselves to be formed and used as an instrument of our Creator, then it becomes very clear that we’ve been made to do remarkable things big and small.
Pray for direction and take advantage of opportunities that come your way. Don’t fret the heat and hits in your life, embrace them and grow through them. Take account of your skills and ask, “What do you want me to do with these?” Lastly, don’t be afraid of failure and take action, there’s growth there too. Because we are formed by the Creator – our love, virtues, skills, and vision become selfless and geared for the service of our next priorities…
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