I am the world's most dangerous person in the kitchen. If something can be dropped, cracked, or knocked down, I will do it. No exceptions. That is why I am a big believer in Pyrex -- the almost indestructible glassware made by Corning. Used in everything from cookware to the Hale Telescope, the glass is created through a melting process which requires exceptionally high temperatures over long periods of time. The end product is extremely durable, able to take extreme temperature swings and is virtually unbreakable.
While it's a familiar concept in manufacturing, the idea of making something stronger by exposing it to extreme heat is also familiar in life. It's like the old saying "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger."
We all have to face challenges - fires in life. The question is how to face those fires and come out stronger? Said another way, how do you forge a heart of Pyrex?
One quick and easy solution is found in the Genesis story of Jacob wrestling with the angel. There Jacob is attacked by a "man" (or more probably an angel or the divine in human form). Rather than giving up, Jacob holds on and does something audacious. He looks the figure in the face and says "I won't let go until you give me a blessing!" The nerve! Yet what happens? God gives him that blessing: a new name "Israel" (translated: "God prevails"). Instead of letting this struggle defeat him, Jacob turns it into a blessing; something that made him stronger for the days ahead.
What do you wrestle with in your life? What fires or "high temperatures" do you face? What could you learn from that moment? What does it have to teach? What would happen if you took hold of that issue, looked it in the eye and said, "I won't let go until you give me a blessing?"
Do you face a job loss? Perhaps you would receive a blessing of faith.
Are you facing a medical crisis? Maybe you would receive a blessing of courage.
Relationship problems? Perhaps you would receive a blessing of humility.
Even something as minor as waiting on a cross-town bus that is late -- asking for a blessing might bring you a lesson in patience.
In the end, we're all just trying to be better people; to strive to be more like our creator. And perhaps God is offering us a little help. It's like C. S. Lewis wrote, "God whispers in our pleasures, but shouts in our pain."
There's an old myth in metalworking that says a silversmith knows when the metal is fully refined when he can see his reflection in it. Perhaps, God is doing the same; refining us through fire not only to make us stronger, but so that we reflect our creator's image.
Consider the possibility that each hardship in life comes bearing a divine blessing. Ask for that blessing. Look for the lesson. Face the fires of life and come out stronger. Use them to forge yourself a heart like Pyrex glass.
Prayer to Live with Grace Rabbi Rami Shapiro
May we discover through pain and torment,
the strength to live with grace and humor.
May we discover through doubt and anguish,
the strength to live with dignity and holiness.
May we discover through suffering and fear,
the strength to move toward healing.
May it come to pass that we be restored to health and to vigor.
May Life grant us wellness of body, spirit, and mind.
And if this cannot be so, may we find in this transformation and passage
moments of meaning, opportunities for love
and the deep and gracious calm that comes
when we allow ourselves to move on.