Why is it always a surprise how hot things get and so quickly? Crisis builds slowly and then all of a sudden it is intense and endless. The story is always the same. Things are simply going the way things go, and then three separate decisions combine and all hell is raging and your hair is on fire. It comes as a surprise, or I would have been prepared. Why am I surprised, again?
Friends suck, that is why it hurts. That is why you are not prepared. That is why you were guarded. How then did it happen again? What did you miss, that let them get past the barriers? The heat will not let up, this I know from the last time. Ok, the last several times…
Here I am, in the vessel filled with the debris of many bad decisions. Good parts and bad. Broken and whole. The heat will melt it all into a soup that will easily pour into a new mold. First will come the flux that grabs what I thought was important and take it away. It has happened time and again and it is the same every time. I think the value is real and justified and my grubby fist holds tight until it is melted away. People and things, both are this to me. Important enough to me, such that I am afraid to let go.
Watching friends move away, having friends pass too soon. Sometimes they are close and it grieves your heart. Sometimes they are not, but it makes you think about their impact in other peoples lives. Last week I listened to the story of a man with an 8-year-old that contracted a virus in her heart. The three options are that she gets better, she is on a list to get a heart transplant, or she passes… she is 8. The thought came to me, as he said she was on the waiting list, where does the heart of an 8-year-old come from? You are in your own crucible and then this: Your happy ending comes at the cost of another having not a happy ending… And into their own crucible they go. Searing heat from the pain of loss and a heaven that ignores your cries and is silent. Tears and sleepless nights and shaking the fist are all there and more. The flux is tossed in and the scale and slag from the impurities are lifted out. The remaining is pure, but the cost is so very high.
Dreams and hopes and aspirations are all there. Melting. Then you see the friend with pictures of their grandchildren at their party. Having fun and enjoying life lived large, and your wounds are touched again. Not with malice or intent, but it is there, this memory of the Christmas not attended… and the heat is turned up again. The time is spent, the melting takes place, the flux that gathers the impurity is removed and the mold refilled.
There is a curious old definition for the term crucible. It is old-Latin, “crucibulum” and it means night light. For some reason it gives me hope. That the heat and the process of the melting and forming in the mold will allow that light to so shine that others may find a path with less darkness. This may be true, and it may not be now, but it is something that gives me hope, that this pain and heat and melting and reforming has a value that I do not see, for someone that I do not know who needs it, so very much right now.
Something curious about this process is the actual crucible itself. Ignominious and not pretty. Heated and used again and again for purposes it knows not why, and which is used to make beautiful and or functional things and always it is returned to the oven to cool slowly. Until the next time it is needed. These vessels never take, and yet are always there to do the task before them. You have friends like this, if you are fortunate. You have seen them with others if you have watched a friend in pain, comforted by such as this, and wondered what these special folks are made of. They go into the fire and hold the broken mess and keep it from falling apart into the oven, that is relentless, and yet take nothing for themselves. They weep the tears of companionship that act as the flux. Safely bringing the impurities to the surface. To be blurted out in childish rage or well-honed angry adult expostulations of slag, so they can be removed. The anger and the tears and the snot that is all part of the deep grief of times like this. And they hold you in this fiery storm… you know this memory… I know I do. The one that held me in my mess. The one that pulled together all of the impurity of bad thoughts and angry yearnings of retributions, to be removed as dross and slag. This crucible, that is my better, that expresses the best in character, holding me in the midst of my torment and my meltdown. And the heat does not cease, nor should it stop before its work is completed. Like a surgeon, that will not stop the cutting and stitching before the job is done. I am the one that wishes for it to cease, but I do not know the obligation of the Dr. to finish, all I want is to have this ride stop. The price of redemption requires forgiveness, and to extract it takes heat. A lot of heat... I am numb as I wait until the end. Then I will be poured out and allowed to cool and to solidify… Reborn as a new creation. Molded into a remembrance of the process that brought it to pass.
This crucible, my friend, is constant. Through the heating and the cooling. Taking the time to hold the broken pieces until the end has finally come. They only do their own part, for they are not the mold. Their task requires them to let go of the contents that they have held throughout this ordeal. They care and are the container that takes nothing in the process. They have been as they are needed to be, present. Without judgment or needing to fix. Simply to endure the time and temp that is required to do the task at hand. The melting away of my broken life parts.
Finally, there is the one that makes the mold and gathers the broken pieces and begins again the process of the melting. This one, the one that knows our broken selves, that comes to us and we like Jacob wrestle over the thing desired to be kept, get touched in the hip with the finger of God, only to walk with a limp the remaining days of his (our) journey here. We walk among others, both stranger and friend. Only a few know the cause of the limp, and the love that keeps us here. We are only to trust that this time it will be of more worthy stuff. That the amount of impurities is less this time. That there are no gaps and pockets that are incomplete.
Somehow, we know it will be the same, when it comes again… simply a different topic or a different reason we are broken again. And yet, patiently He gathers our broken selves, and reminds us that He is with us in this process. He has seen this process up close, has been in the furnace and walked with them in the midst of it. In this is comfort, but not safety. The fire is real. The melting is certain. The crucible is to be filled and the mold readied for this next trip. Repeated so that you can be one for another that is broken… to hold and not judge. To be in the midst of this incredible period in the life of another. This is your gift that you can give to another. If you have been fortunate to have had this gift, in your own time of anguish, you know. These are odd words to connect. To have had a good friend in such a time is to have been in such a place at such a time, and no one would wish for this… but afterward, the sweetness of that friend brings tears of comfort and joy that they were at your side. Holding you in this dark and terrible place. Weeping the tears that cleanse your soul. If you have been spared, then you cannot know. If you were alone, then I am sorrowful for your journey. If you were with someone in their dark and hot place, and you provided such a gift, then to you I salute you. You were the light of heaven in a dark land… perhaps a night light, shining the light on the path for another... Carry on, this crucible that held greatness, and then poured it out. Into the mold, that was this next version of what is yet to come...
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