Last week on vacation, my family went to Wichita’s historic “Cow Town” section. It’s a recreated version of Wichita as a (you guessed it) cow town from the late 1800’s. They’ve worked hard to recreate dress, atmosphere, buildings, and culture. I sat at the bar and drank Sarsaparilla, spent some time in the original jail, played a period era game, and learned a lot about Jesus from this guy:
Because as I watched him fix the broken wagon spoke, I had this innate desire to stick some metal in a fire and craft something myself. I was also deeply aware of how much of a failure I would be if I tried.
I didn’t have the experience, knowledge, or tools. I would have just been some guy hammering on a hot piece of metal.
I’ve found the same is true in the life of faith. I want to be a nice person, I really do. I want to be loving, gracious, forgiving, friendly, and accepting of everybody. But left on my own, I’m far from it.
More often than not, I’m judgmental, condemning, bitter, demeaning, and belittling of those around me.
If I wanted to be a blacksmith, the worst possible thing I could do would be to start a fire, throw some metal in it, and start hammering away. I need a master. I need a guide. I need a teacher. I need someone like him.
He carefully and thoughtfully worked. He knew how to heat the fire, which instrument to use, and just how the piece needed to be shaped. It was less brute hammering and more thoughtful art. His blows were calculated and precise. His goal was not to impress, but to be faithful to the task at hand.
And that is precisely what I need in following Jesus. I need to follow the Master. I need to study, learn, and spend time being shaped. Much like a blacksmith, I need to learn to give calculated ‘blows.’ I’m not nice for the sake of being nice or good, I do it to be able to point people to Jesus. I don’t brute force people into the kingdom, I do it by intentionally shaping our experiences together so that the see the power of the resurrected Jesus.
And I can’t do it on my own.
Left to my own devices, I’m a wreck, much like if I just decided to be a blacksmith one day without any help or training. I’d do more harm than good. I’d cause more pain than help.
The life of following Jesus is about learning to imitate the Master, being shaped by and how he does things. The journey of the Christian life is like blacksmithing: learning from the master how to best use your craft to benefit and bless others.