July 10, 2020

Joyful Witness / Kimberly Pohovey

In refining ourselves, we reflect God’s image

Kimberly PohoveyI sit at the water’s edge watching the waves lap back and forth. A particular stone catches my eye. It is mostly brown and caked with sand. I see the tiniest spot gleam through the muck. Then the water rushes back over the stone taking with it the built-up dirt. The newly polished stone shines all over.

As I witness this constant cycle of dirtying and polishing, I can’t help but think of my own life. How many times have I made mistakes, sinned and “dirtied” up my life only to have God continually wash over my iniquities to once again purify me? Once polished, I again set forth to trying to live up to the person he designed me to be.

One can find the same polishing metaphor in many aspects of nature and even man-made processes. It reminds me of the story of the silversmith (bear with me if you are already acquainted with this story). A Bible-study group is puzzled by a Scripture from Malachi—“And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver” (Mal 3:3). One member offers to explore the process of refining silver and report back to the group. He visits a silversmith to observe his work.

He watched the silversmith hold a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. The silversmith explained to him that in refining silver, you must hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames are most hot to burn away the impurities. Seeing this, the member thought it is the same for God as he holds us where the flames are hottest to burn away our impurities.

Then he thought again about the verse. “And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” He asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire and watch the process at all times. The silversmith answered affirmatively and added that not only did he have to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it is tested in the fire. If the silver is left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. You must leave it long enough to serve the purpose, but not too long that it would destroy it.

The member then asked the silversmith, “How do you know when silver is fully refined?” He smiled and answered, “Oh, that’s easy—when I see my image in it.” (Author Unknown).

Whether purifying through water, heat or life’s trials, the Lord is with us through the entire process. He knows exactly when we need refining, the perfect amount of time to purify. And he delights in the finished, polished product—at which point we reflect his own image.

I reach down into the water to retrieve the now lustrous stone. I pinch it between my thumb and forefinger, holding it high in the air against the sunny, beautifully blue sky. Against the luminous sheen, I think I glimpse the image God wants me to see of myself.

(Kimberly Pohovey is a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis. She is the director of major and planned gifts for the archdiocese.) †

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