When I was very young, my dad was granted 100% disability due to a near-fatal accident he had in the navy when he was only 19. Actually, a death certificate had actually been filled out but that's another story! Complications due to his multiple injuries (one of them being epilepsy) eventually took their toll and he couldn't hold a job.
Eventually, my dad started to volunteer at the Day Treatment Center which was an outpatient facility for veterans. Although my dad didn't become a Christian much later, the sight of these vets sitting around hopeless all day really bothered him. He collaborated with the regular staff and the program was expanded to provide a much more wide variety of activities for these men. Dad, being a disabled vet himself, was able to help these men in ways the regular staff couldn't.
Dad was very artistic. His pet project was to start up a ceramic class. The vets loved it. Even those with limited abilities could produce some beautiful items to enjoy, give as gifts, or sell in the small store that was set up for that purpose.
In the summer time, when my brother and I were too young to stay home alone, we would go to work with my dad. We loved to go. In fact, even as we got older, we would frequently stop in for visits whenever we could.
I remember one time when I was 11, my dad took me back to where the greenware was. He showed me a pretty little gray-colored bird and told me I could make it if I wanted too. I remember carefully scraping away the seams and smoothing out the surface. Then it was placed in the kiln.
When my little bird came out of the kiln, it was snow-white. I remember my dad explaining how the intense heat burned away all of the impurities and that's why it was now white. He also told me how a flawed piece could crack and explode under the heat. Sometimes it could even destroy the pieces around it. That's why it couldn't go into the kiln until you were sure it was ready.
Now it was time to color it. Although I had never seen one, I decided to make my bird a scarlet tanger. I'd seen a picture of one once and loved the scarlet body with it's black wings. Dad selected the colors I would need. I started to apply scarlet and let out a cry. It was a horrible dark color. I started to cry. My beautiful bird was ruined!
Dad quickly reassured me that it would turn to red...after it had gone through the fire. I wiped away my tears and decided that since my dad said it was okay, it must be okay. Then, my little bird went into the fire again. Finally it was finished. It's scarlet body and black wings shone brightly. It had survived the fire!
As I grew older, I thought about the lessons I'd learned from my little bird. In order for me to stand before God, I would have to go through the fire. These fires can be spiritual, emotional, physical, spiritual or any combination of these four. Although I usually can't see it, God has a purpose. He's burning away things in my life. It might be sin I need to get rid of. It could be to help me gain understanding and empathy in regards to others. It could be to enable me to minister to others who eventually find themselves in a similar fire. It could be for a lot of different things.
If I do not allow these imperfections to be burned away, I can end up destroying myself and possibly others. If I persevere, I will come out more beautiful than ever!
When we are in the fire, our true colors come out. We can appear to be one thing, but all the fake stuff gets burned away in the fire. It can't withstand it.
Finally, I can't imagine someone proudly displaying a piece of ugly gray greenware. You only want pieces that have gone through the fire. They're beautiful to look at and they can even be useful. No one has any use for greenware, except to put it in the fire.
So, the next time I go through a fire, I want to remember the lessons God taught me using a little bird!