Making Bread

2 Dec

I have a friend who is a baker.  He makes all kinds of artisan breads and works very hard at creating new recipes that are delicious and incredible.  While visiting him recently I watched as he worked.  He made the dough and then scraped it onto his table where he proceeded to knead and work it.  At one point he picked the huge ball of dough up and slammed it against the table.  I asked him about that and he said it helped to develop the dough, making it more elastic and giving it a wonderful texture.  Later when we tasted the bread, it was amazing.  And he was right, the texture was wonderful and I have never tasted anything more perfect.  I have been thinking about that ever since.  There is a parallel to our lives in this.  We go through our days and things go right and sometimes they go wrong.  It seems our struggles knead us into something better, and there are definitely times when we feel we’re being slammed against a table!  But if we endure, and learn from our experiences, we too, just like my friend’s bread, will have an amazing texture to our lives, and become deep and well developed.

Nobody likes to go through hard times.  Nobody likes to suffer, and nobody wants bad things to come to them.  But we don’t live in Nirvana.  We live on earth and in a human existence.  We interact with others who have free will and can, and sometimes do, make decisions that impact us negatively.  We get hurt, and we struggle, but through the struggle comes strength, and knowledge, and if we’re patient, eventually wisdom.  It would be great if we could learn everything we needed to know, and grow into incredible people without suffering, but that isn’t the case.  It seems we need a refining fire to burn off our superficial pettiness, and our selfish desires.  Silversmiths work with ore putting it in a hot furnace again and again.  When asked how they know all the dross has been burned off and the silver is pure, they say they know it’s ready when they see their reflection in it.  There is nothing left to diminish the shine.  It’s the same with us.  We struggle, we feel pain and loss, and as we do small bits of what we don’t need fall away, and in the end because of what it takes to get through, we are purer than when we started.

It’s nice to dream of a perfect world where everyone loves everyone else, where we’re all respected and cared for, and where there are no tears of sadness, sorrow or loneliness.  But if we lived in such a state, if we were in paradise all the time, we would never have the opportunity to grow.  We would never really know joy because we would never know sorrow.  Joy is the absence of sorrow.  We have to experience one to understand the other.  And so, although it’s nice to think about a world where nothing goes wrong, it’s better to live in one where it does.  It’s hard to remember that when we’ve been hurt, betrayed, lied to, offended, or injured.  It’s hard to think anything good could come from our suffering, but greatness comes to us when we persevere and hold fast to what is right, even in times of trial.  Wisdom comes from experience – and the difficult experiences teach us far more than the easy ones.

Today if you feel beset by trials, if you’re suffering and feeling bad, remember you are in the refiner’s fire.  You are learning more about life and about yourself.  It might get hot and you may feel very uncomfortable for a time but it’ll never get too hot for you to handle.  You are becoming great.  You are becoming your best self.  Hang on and learn all you can.  You’re getting stronger and closer to who you really want to be.

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