In New England, we had an Annual Regional Men's Retreat at Camp Ganderbook in Maine. I missed having such a thing here until attending the Dad's N Lad's Retreat at Nebraska Youth Camp. Not only were the Fathers with younger children, but also father's with older children, adult children, son in laws, and also Grandfathers with sons and grandsons. It was basically an intergenerational men's camp with spiritual and fun activities for men of all ages. I had my first experience with paintball there and had the welts on my skin to show for it. There was also fishing, canoeing, skeet shooting, and a number of other things.
I particularly enjoyed watching the blacksmith who came out and demonstrated his craft while the director gave all of us some spiritual insights on the craft. Afterward, many of the men had the opportunity to make their own projects.
Here are some of the insights we received from the blacksmith.
1. Being shaped by God is not always easy. God heats us red hot, places us on the anvil, and pounds us into the tool he wishes. As the blacksmith pounds on the metal, I noticed that black matter was constantly coming out of the metal and he had to brush it away. That was the carbon and other impurities being pounded out of the metal. As the blacksmith pounded away, the metal was becoming more refined and pure. Tommy reminded us that this is how they make steel. It was becoming stronger with each pound of the hammer.
2. God knows our limits. The blacksmith demonstrated how he watched the metal very carefully so as not to overheat the metal. He could tell by the shade of the metal when it was the right temperature. It was anywhere from red, orange, yellow, to white. God watches us closely and does not put more on us that we can bear. He uses just the right amount to shape us for his purposes without destroying us.
3. We will not always be the most popular. The blacksmith used a magnet to show us how the metal loses its magnetism when it is heated up red hot. When we are allowing ourselves to be heated up, shaped, and used by the master, we may also lose our magnetism. A quick survey of the prophets confirms this to be the case. They were ostracized, persecuted, and even killed for their faithfulness to God's purposes for them.
4. Our true identity comes from God. God forms us for his purposes alone. When we submit to being on the anvil in his hands, he is the one that forms us into his useful tool. We may be used multiple times or for a single job and need to be reshaped afterwards. Amos was a shepherd that God took from the sheepfold for the singular purpose of prophesying to Israel for a time. He then returned to the sheepfold when he was finished. Whatever it is, it honors God when we allow ourselves to become his tool for his purposes.