Three years ago today, i stood in the presence of a master craftsman. i must confess i do not know the craftsman’s name. i had never seen him before that day, and i haven’t seen him since. We didn’t speak the same language, so all we could do was smile and nod. i do not know anything about the man beyond what i observed in the moment. But as i stood there riveted in his presence, i knew it was a moment i would never forget – and a lesson that would forever be etched in my memory.
i was standing in a blown glass and ceramic manufacturing shop in the city of Hebron in the West Bank. This master craftsman and i were about the same age. He had the appearance of a man who had worked hard all of his life. He went about his craft in a way that clearly evidenced his mastery. No effort was wasted. Each and every step had purpose. He started with a simple indistinguishable rod of glass. But from the beginning, i could tell that he was not seeing what it looked like now – he saw what he was shaping it to become!
The surroundings were rugged. The bare concrete floor was rough – no one had been concerned about smoothing the concrete before it hardened. The room was already warm – even though it was still early on that summer morning. The fires that were used to super heat the glass created their own added warmth. The area was open to the out of doors so that what little breeze stirred outside could find its way into the shop. And the breeze carried with it the dust and aromas from the surrounding area.
The master saw that he had my attention. He gave me a slight smile as if to say, “watch and learn.” He then placed the end of the rod of glass into the flame. Almost immediately it began to turn brilliant colors of orange, red and blue. He used the heat of the flame to not only make the glass pliable – but also to remove its imperfections. But throughout the process it was obvious to see that experience had taught him just the right amount of heat that was needed. Not too much; but not too little.
Then he began to twirl the rod – almost like a drum major twirls his baton. He was using the centrifugal force to stretch the molten glass. But again, years of experience had taught him just the right amount of force – force that would stretch, but not break. Next he pressed that molten glass against that rough concrete floor. He used that hard surface to mold and to shape the contour of what he was creating. But he knew just how hard and how long to press – enough to shape, but not destroy.
But then he did something that will forever remain a picture in my mind. He lifted the non-molten end of the tube to his mouth. His cheeks blew out from the sides of his face like big balloons. He had very obviously done this many times before! His cheeks evidenced an elasticity that could only be seen in a master glassblower. And then he breathed into that tube the breath that was needed to craft it into the vessel he was creating it to be. Occasionally he would pick up a simple tool and use it to bend or cut the glass to add his finishing touches.
There before me appeared a beautiful glass pitcher. Simple, but ornate. Useful and usable for the master’s purpose. The tools he used were simple. He did not need elaborate technology or gadgetry. The beauty of what he was creating arose from the simplicity of his process. The master had learned to use those simple tools to take something without form and make it into something of beauty.
And then i was reminded. Just as this master was crafting this blown-glass pitcher, so is my Master crafting me to be His earthen vessel. He uses the heat of the flame of life to remove my imperfections and make me pliable. Just the right amount of heat – not too much, but not too little. Just as this master used centrifugal force to stretch the ball of molten glass, my Master uses outside force to stretch me. But again, just the right amount of force – force that will stretch me but not break me. Then He uses the hard surfaces to mold and shape me. But He only allows those hard surfaces to press against me to the extent that is needed to shape me – not destroy me. And throughout the process He breathes into me the breath that is required to craft me into the vessel that He intends – for His purpose and His use. And through it all, He is conforming me into the image that He had in His mind all along – the image of His Son. (2 Tim 2:21)
i will forever be thankful to this Palestinian glassblower for truly teaching me that eternal truth!