Wrapped in crumpled newspaper and stuffed in an old box, the tarnished trays and pitchers looked like they should be dumped in the trash. A friend who was moving discovered the items, abandoned by a former roommate. It didn’t look like there was anything of much value.
Yet beneath the grime and dark gray-green stains was a glimmer of former beauty. With a damp cloth, a tub of silver polish, and fierce determination, I tackled the first item, a small sugar bowl. As I painstakingly rubbed the polish onto the surface, years of tarnish disappeared, bit by bit. Encouraged by the first hint of shine, I continued my efforts. Finally, the polishing revealed the beautiful craftsmanship of an elegant piece of fine silver. It gleamed in the afternoon sun.
As I polished piece after piece that day, I wondered – how many times do I write off someone who is a little rough around the edges? Just like I was ready to chuck the whole box of tarnished silver into the trash?
Karl was an imposing character. He was tall and broad, with bushy gray eyebrows that were locked in a permanent scowl. A regular at our German Bible school’s free neighborhood café, Karl’s favorite topic of conversation was his latest foot surgery. He would corner some sympathetic listener for hours with his tales of woe. Though I always smiled and said hello, he had no patience for me once he discovered I didn’t speak German.
So I was shocked one afternoon when Karl hobbled up to help as I struggled with bulging bags of groceries outside the local supermarket. Barking instructions at me in German, he took over the situation, insisting on walking with me the two blocks back to the house in his slow limping gait. He wouldn’t leave until we had carried all the bags up the steps and into the hall. When I thanked him, he brushed it off gruffly and shuffled away. Though he never smiled, I felt like I’d seen a faint glimmer of shine that day.
Polishing silver takes a lot of patience and hard work. The hours of listening to Karl’s complaints and the countless prayers for him were like the gentle rubbing of the polish, slowly removing years of built-up bitterness. Yes, it’s hard work, and the results aren’t instant. But in time, the beauty of God’s perfect design is revealed, as we persevere in the process. The Holy Spirit is the polish that makes us shine!
“Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” Colossians 1:28-29 NIV