I was looking at some antique etched art glass that my husband and I have collected over the years and how beautifully each piece had been crafted. Each piece was hand blown into the vision the artist had intended for it from its shape to its color. And the final touches are the etchings that adorn it with its unique character. I never grow tired of these beauties and the pleasure they bring to my eyes. I have a whole cabinet full of them and there are no two alike.
These graceful works of art started out as just a vision in the mind of an artist. Then the end of a steel blow pipe is placed into molten glass in what is known as the “gathering” and a blob forms on the end. It’s then placed into what is called the “glory hole” which is a furnace blazing at over two thousand degrees. Once the blob is hot enough the artist will breathe into the pipe birthing the vision to life.
It’s a fascinating process to watch. I once had the privilege of seeing this first hand at the island of Murano in Venice, Italy. This is where the art of glass blowing was perfected in the sixteenth century and the museum there houses the most magnificent priceless works.
It got me thinking along my usual metaphorical path that this process is not unlike that of the birth of a soul. The people that are you and me started as a vision in the mind of God and then -- the gathering. No two alike—each individually designed, breathed into, crafted with color and shape in mind, a blob being made into a work of priceless art.
One of the interesting things about both of these processes is that they aren’t always pretty or painless in the making. That glory hole is a blazing furnace needed to make the blob pliable. And it’s not a one shot deal but gets put back in the hole over and over again throughout the process as the glorious fire is needed to form the beauty. With each blast of fiery heat the blob is being transformed and fashioned into the artist’s vision, stretched, twisted, constricted and snipped by the master’s hand.
This soul has been in that glory hole a time or two. I’ve felt that molten heat as it turned my hardened heart more pliable, supple. I’ve felt that hot breath blow new shape into me. I’ve felt those tweezers stretch and pull and those skilled hands mold and shape me into something more useful. I’ve felt those scissors cut off the excess waste and watched it fall to the floor; deemed unnecessary, a hindrance to the intended design; a distraction from the simple beauty.
The glory hole is an act of grace. With each immersion comes the etching of grace ---the molding of our soul’s beauty as God has envisioned. It is a slow and lifelong process of perfecting the molten blob of us into his priceless work of art; a feast for his eyes and joy to his heart. He delights in the beauty he is making of you and me. Your etching looks different than mine. Your brilliance has a different hue. And our time in the glory hole may vary from one to the other.
I’m pretty sure that I’ll be seeing that glory hole again. I am a long way from perfected and in need of much grace. I can see the shape that has been forming and there is some evidence of his etchings. I can’t say though that I look forward to the glory hole. Sometimes it gets so hot I fear I will disintegrate, melt off the blow pipe and fall into the furnace. But the master knows what he’s doing and of one thing I am certain; I know that blow pipe is filled with his hot breath of love.
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”