One of the more interesting examples of effective change can be seen as a professional blacksmith, with years of experience and native ability, either reshapes that which already exists or creates that which is needed. It is fascinating to watch as his hammer pings the rhythms needed to shape the form that is settled in his mind.
None of this is possible until the metal is heated to a searing, red-hot mass of weakened substance. Until the mass is ready for the hammer blows that redefine it, the creator can do nothing. The “smithy” waits and when the time comes, he pulls his material from the fire and holds it with tongs. The anvil becomes the bed upon which the new form will emerge.
Normally, the response of metal to the stinging two-pound hammer does not come easily. To melt down the old form, while preparing to give it new identification, is a disruptive action and many reheating motions are needed to keep the project aligned with the ultimate goal.
The metal, during this active process, must stay on the anvil. The hammer is of little use while the metal travels in tongs from the heat. Any attempt to effectively change it in mid-air will be wasted motion. The stubborn inner tinsel strength to remain what it once was can only ever be overcome by the farrier’s insistence to use the anvil’s superior ability to withstand both the heat and the blows of a hammer in the artist’s hands.
And, with the passing of time, the change occurs. The old form no longer exists. Dullness has been replaced with the sharpened eye of the one who knew what form would exist before the hammering began. What had been in the bin of discarded material has become something of value.
When finished, the blacksmith takes his creation in the tongs of tested times and, with the red-hot and searing form at eye level, he looks at the finished product. Approving of his work, he then plunges the molted metal into the cool water that will bring the heat to an end, as the metal’s inner core becomes that which can no longer be bent.
This old and vital process is a pictorial example of how God often deals with us. Sadly, there are times when, by making bad choices, wrong moves, lamentable evaluations, etc., we are relegated to the bin of discarded people. Someone saved us from annihilation, for reasons that at the time may have been unclear, but God, as it suits His purpose and that purpose is always seen as the attempt to reshape what has been bent in the wrong direction, is seen as that One who uses the ‘tongs of tempered tests’ and lifts us into the red-hot heat of His searing determination to make our weakness become that which is, once again, strong.
Cephas, better known to most as Peter, one of the first disciples chosen, experienced the hammer of God as he was reshaped on the anvil of adversity, and stated, in the book that bears his name, that which is God’s promissory note: “… for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith … of greater value than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire … may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6,7)
Sometimes, when we may feel that we have nowhere else to go, we are brought face to face with our dilemma … Jesus, in the garden, Peter, with having denied the Lord, King David, after Bathsheba, Elijah, and that still, small voice, and Paul, blind in Damascus. It is not possible to live in hopelessness, at least with any sense of purpose or even desire, but in the midst of our failures, the certain knowledge of weakness, when we could have been strong, and the continuing awareness of our imperfections we are brought to the Anvil of another chance.
If God had another name … it would be Surprise! When, as deemed useless by those around us and more particularly by ourselves, God reaches for us and puts us on the path of renovated remorse. It can be scary, dark, agonizing and more, but as the hammer forms and shapes the image that will emerge, the truth emerges with it. We shouldn’t ever try to avoid the anvil but experience it with grateful hearts. The soaring heat of purging purification will lessen as the heat is released into the cool waters that run through the green pastures of God’s provision.
The blacksmith knows how to straighten that which is bent. He knows how to bring usefulness to that which was discarded. He knows that what is in his hands can become pliable if it’s restored to the right shape.
When we feel we’re on the anvil, we should rejoice in knowing that God evidently thinks we’re still worth reshaping.