A molten ball of liquid glass on the end of the iron pipe glowed brilliant yellow-orange. The instructor skillfully rolled the pipe along a wooden railing as one of the assistants began to blow through the opposite end of the pipe, forming a small bubble. As the bubble grew larger, it was carefully shaped using a wooden mold and thick heat-resistant pads. Every few minutes the glass had to be re-heated in the “glory hole,” the 2000 degree Fahrenheit furnace, so that it wouldn’t crack as it cooled.
Sitting on the edge of my seat in the observation area, I was enthralled with the intricate process of glass-blowing. The process of manipulating liquid glass into beautiful works of art. The shimmering bubble grew bigger and bigger, until, stretched too thin, the glass suddenly shattered. There was a collective gasp from the audience as we stared at the once-beautiful object, now a pile of broken shards. But the instructor just smiled.
“We recycle everything in our glass-blowing lab,” she explained, picking up a paper-thin fragment from the cement floor. “Nothing is wasted. These pieces will be melted down in the furnace so they can be used over and over again.”
The glass-blowers then started again, patiently dipping, heating, rolling, shaping, blowing, squeezing and re-heating the liquid glass. Finally the finished product emerged – a glistening Christmas wreath, complete with delicately-shaped flowers, leaves, and a big bow.
As one year has ended and a new year is beginning, I’ve been thinking a lot about those shattered fragments on the floor of the glass-blowing lab. There are areas of my life that seem to be broken pieces, destined for the trash. Things I hoped for in this past year that didn’t come to pass. Relationships that have drifted apart or aren’t what I wish them to be. Plans that failed. Great ideas that came to nothing.
It doesn’t seem fair. It doesn’t seem right. And I find myself raging at God sometimes, wondering why He allowed these things. The verses in Romans 9:20-21 seem to be speaking straight to me today. “But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Will what is molded say to the one who molds it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’” (NRSV).
When all I can see are the broken pieces, I can trust that the Master has a purpose in it all. He gently picks up the jagged fragments and puts them all in the “glory hole” – the blazing furnace – until it comes out as shimmering, golden molten glass, ready to be re-shaped and molded according to His ultimate design. He makes “all things beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV).