My youngest daughter turned 17 this week. Admittedly we may have gone a little over the top by stuffing her room with 650 balloons for a surprise welcome home, but after the silliness and laughs passed, we eventually got down to the ‘serious’ business of opening her presents. Surprisingly, it turned out that her favorite gift wasn’t her new cell phone. Instead it was a simple molcajete that we picked up at a Latin food mart. A molcajete (molkaˈxe̞t̪e̞) is Mexican style mortar and pestle that has been used for centuries, if not millennia. It may seem a strange gift for a teenager, but since she has become an expert guacamole maker, she was thrilled to get it. But before she could put it to use, it had to be seasoned and conditioned. Since this type of mortar and pestle is made from a volcanic rock call basalt, it is very porous and in its unseasoned state is rough and gritty. The small holes on the surface of a new one easily trap dirt and debris and since the rough texture also grinds off with use (getting into the food) the tool surface must be conditioned and smoothed before it can be used for food preparation.
So after the party was over, Clif began the seasoning process by grinding white rice in the basin of the molcajete until it was reduced to a fine, dirty powder. As the bits of rock are sanded off, the rice powder takes on a gray cast, revealing the presence of contamination. The process is repeated again and again until the rice retains its white coloration and the surface of the mortar is smooth.
You know, as I watched Clif grind the rice repeatedly, I couldn’t help but see a parallel to how believers in Jesus are prepared for service in the kingdom of God. We all come to the Lord with rough surfaces, poxed with impurity trapping holes and voids that can potentially taint our ability to present a pure offering to God and spoil the attractiveness of the message of salvation. So God has to commence the process of conditioning us for service in order to grind off our coarseness. And the truth is that His conditioning looks a lot like what happened to Leia’s new present. That is, He sends difficulty and uncomfortable situations into our lives to grind away our rough edges. He scrapes and polishes us again and again with ‘sandpaper’ people and pulverizes our impurities with adversity so that our personal lives don’t soil the purity of the gospel.
So when the circumstances of your life feel like they are pounding on you, if you are a Child of God, they probably are! And if you are a believer who’s been serving the Lord for a long time, the analogy with the molcajete isn’t lost on you either. Even implements that have been in service for a long time continue to be refined through regular use. So the encouragement to every serious believer is to persevere in offering yourself to Christ, knowing that there is purpose to what can feel like the crushing process. He is making you into a useful vessel, clean and ready for service.