After a grueling fall semester, my oldest son, Ryan, is still home for a much-needed break before heading back to campus. But the time has passed quickly leaving only one short week with us before returning to school in Charleston at the American College of the Building Arts where he’s in his junior year in the iron working program. Regular readers already know that his school is a unique university that according to their mission statement “educates and trains artisans in the traditional building arts to foster exceptional craftsmanship and encourage the preservation, enrichment, and understanding of the world’s architectural heritage through a liberal arts education.” Or as I explain it, students learn ‘old world’ crafts (blacksmithing, plaster work, stone carving, timber framing) with ‘new world’ application.
It’s definitely a different track than most kids choose nowadays, but one that has proved to be perfectly suited for him as his skills have grown exponentially in just a couple of years. When we tell people that Ryan is studying to be a blacksmith, (often met with confused looks), they usually ask how he ended up in such an unusual field, to which either Clif or I tell the same story…
When Ryan was 10, he wanted a sword (think Lord of the Rings here), but he knew that we wouldn’t give him one. After all, a sword in the hands of an elementary school boy is not a good idea (especially with 3 siblings and 4 dogs in the household) Not to be denied, he armed himself with a framing hammer, a piece of discarded metal conduit, and set about making himself one, using his dad’s table saw as a makeshift anvil (which still bears the scars). The result was something that vaguely resembled the shape of a sword, but was only momentarily satisfying. His dual satisfaction with making something himself and dissatisfaction with the results, fueled him to improve. In the ensuing years, he pursued this desire relentlessly, seeking a variety of sources to learn all he could about metal-working and blade-smithing, eventually resulting in all kinds of impressive knives and swords. However, his interest and skill exploded during his time at ACBA and has sparked a new creativity that has driven him to leave swords and knives behind and to fully embrace artistic iron working. (see his most recent project which was designed, created and completed in 2.5 weeks)
But setting aside the obvious safety issues, imagine for a minute: what if I had given him the sword he wanted as a 10-year-old? What if as he grew, we replaced the outgrown or damaged swords with new and better ones? What if every time he asked, we delivered to him exactly what he wanted? While it might have saved the dings in his dad’s table saw, I can’t help but wonder if granting his requests could have also interrupted what was necessary to unleash the creativity and desire that helped him discover the thing that he now loves the most… the thing that will likely define the rest of his life.
You know, as believers, we often spend a lot of time lamenting over what we would label as ‘unanswered prayer,’ but have you ever considered that if God granted your every request, that it might also have the unintended consequence of interrupting the training and conditioning necessary to prepare you for the walk and calling He plans for you? Could it be that not getting what you ask for may be far more important to your development than having your temporary and fleeting desires fulfilled?
I know there is real pain and far more difficult circumstances facing people than I could ever imagine, and I don’t intend to brush aside anyone’s real struggles with this brief post, but I do want to encourage those who are disheartened by God’s seeming lack of concern by reminding them that He often has multifaceted reasons for why He does –or doesn’t –respond as we hope… some of which we may never understand on this side of eternity. But in those moments of disappointment and confusion, hold fast to the knowledge that faith and trust are what gets you through. While there are some things God just doesn’t tell us, (Deut 29:29) we can hang on to the promise that He is always involved in our lives.
So if you still find yourself empty-handed after a lot of asking, remind yourself of God’s character and be encouraged by Ryan’s story. Remember that the Lord may be doing far more behind the scenes than you could ever imagine.
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son,
but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him,
graciously give us all things?