I don’t remember many things from my youth, but I do remember the first time I saw liquid metal. I was a child and my neighbor was repairing the plumbing in her house. The workers had stripped the bathrooms of fixtures and were reworking many of the pipes they found in the walls. Her garage had been turned into the plumber’s workspace in the midst of which sat a small kettle on top of an open flame. In the kettle bubbled a silver sea, or at least it looked like one to me.
“Don’t get too close to it,” the worker warned me, “it would burn your skin right off.” I stepped back from the edge of the kettle but lost no fascination with the sea of liquid metal.
“What’s it for,” I asked.
“Repairing the plumbing,” he said before reaching into the small sea of metal with a tool and scraping away a thin layer of darker matter from its surface. The underlying sea of metal shone even brighter than before.
“Wow! What did you do?” I asked.
“Well,” he said as he continued scraping the surface, “before you can use the lead, you have to remove the dross. All metal has it, but it won’t give it up unless you heat it and scrape it.” He discarded a layer of dark matter onto an ugly pile of dirt on the floor next to the kettle. “The fires gotta be hot enough to melt the metal, and then you have to wait some time until the dross comes out.”
Trying to mask my obvious ignorance, I smugly said, “dross, yep, gotta get rid of that dross.”
He laughed. “”Dross’ is the word for impurities in the metal. You can never get metal perfectly pure, but you can keep at it, and over time it becomes better than it was before.”
I continued to watch as he scraped away the dross adding to the size of the ugly pile on the floor. Eventually, he stopped scraping and dipped the ends of two pipes into the metal then fit them snuggly together.
Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind…
I don’t know about you, but most of the time I think I’m doing a pretty good job at following God. I continue to think about the grace he has extended me, his mercy, and his love. I try as much as I can in the midst of the mundane trivialities of life to rely on his strength.
I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness…
And, when I look around me I realize I am not like all those deceitful hypocrites assembled together for the purposes of doing wicked. I am more like the innocent ones who go to church, sings praise songs, and tells others of God’s goodness.
Uh…well…that’s a pleasant fiction, isn’t it?
If I’m being really honest, I look inward and say with Paul “I am the chief of sinners…” I will look at Psalm 1 and realize I am more like “the chaff” than like the person David speaks of in Psalm 26.
I do not sit with the deceitful…
But I know I do. In fact, I am deceitful more than I’d like to admit.
…nor do I associate with hypocrites…
Well, I don’t hang around those people who are hypocrites in areas that I am not. But those who have my same duplicity, well let’s just be honest, I cut them a huge break.
I abhor the assembly of evildoers and refuse to sit with the wicked.
I think it depends on why they are assembled. No one can stand someone else’s sin, but I always find reasons to gather around and support those embroiled in my own.
I wash my hands in innocence and go about your altar, Lord.
The dirt on my hands isn’t that bad, I mean, who doesn’t get a little dirty from time to time. Besides, most of my issues aren’t my fault anyway. If only my parents loved me more, if only others really understood, or if only…well, you know, God just wants me as I am, I don’t have to change anything.
I lead a blameless life…
On second thought, maybe I don’t. Maybe I’m much more like the chaff which is driven away by the wind than the tree planted by streams of living water. Maybe I’m more like the pot of liquid metal I saw in my childhood that I’d want to admit. Maybe I think I look shiny and perfect, but when a little bit of heat comes into my life I produce a bunch of dross. Maybe there is more evil and hatred within me than I would like to admit. Maybe I don’t want to admit that a lifetime of testing would not be enough to purge me of my sin; nor would a thousand lifetimes.
deliver me and be merciful to me.