Candle Making and Layers of Faith
The smell of smoke warms the damp, chilly spring morning, lending an air of excitement to the group of fourth graders and their parents ((who, having just finished their morning cups of cowboy coffee, are ready to greet each activity with enthusiasm almost equal to that of their kids)).
I can finally gratify the question, “Are we going to make candles now?” by leading them to the campfire, where a pot of wax is kept hot and ready. In a few minutes the crazy chaos of excited kids are miraculously organized into two lines and are taking their turns to dip their wick into the pot of wax. Each one is holding a stick ((or “broach,” if you want to get technical about it)) with a piece of cotton wick tied to the end in preparation for dipping, which will coat the string with wax. They marvel when I tell them they will need to dip it about forty to sixty times to build up a nice, thick candle.
I warn them to dip quickly and take great care not to leave their wick in the pot for more than a second or two, or else the heat will melt their built up layers of wax away and destroy their work. I kneel next to the pot, feeding the fire and fanning it with my apron to keep it burning and melting the wax, but not too hot. If the wax gets too hot, it won’t allow any to build up on the wicks, and make the whole process futile.
In my years working with Rock-N-Water’s Living History Field Trips and teaching about the California Gold Rush, I have been taught countless object lessons, and I love to discover new ones. As I consider the candle making process, it occurs to me that God’s people are like these candles, and He is the Master candle maker. He uses life’s trials like that pot of wax, knowing the exact temperature we need to develop us into the candles He intends us to be.
“But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;’” Isaiah 43:1-3a
Only when we remember that our great God is with us throughout all of the difficult, frightening and wonderful times in our lives are we truly able to do as James 1:2-4 says and, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Each of those trials is like a layer of wax which will ultimately result, through God’s great grace, in the completion of the work He is doing in us…without them, we would be lacking! And He won’t leave us in trials so long that we will be consumed (or melted). He knows the perfect temperature and will enable us to endure it!
After the kids are done and eager to head to the next activity, I look over the rows of candles hanging to cool, and I marvel. Praise God for tenderly forming each of us, through whatever means necessary, into lights to shine for His glory! What about you? What is God using now to perfect you and build up the layers of your faith?