There are times in life when a person is tested and stressed to the extreme. It happens to every one of us at one time or another. It’s a time when the billows from a blacksmith’s fire, used as part of life’s refining process, are blowing seemingly insurmountable problems, continually. This just happens to be one of those exceptional times for Dan. Here’s part of his story. A story about the refining process he’s been experiencing over the past 10 days.
“My mom calls me at 4:30 a.m. letting me know she has called 911, as my dad says he can’t breathe,” Dan starts. “I rush to their home which is eight miles away and take him to the ER. After most of the day he is admitted to ICU and spends the next eight days mostly in ICU dealing with some kind of infection in his lungs. My mom is on hospice and unable to walk. We have help for her in the mornings from hospice and then an aid that we pay for during the day until 3 p.m. This means I need to balance dealing with him in the hospital and my mom’s needs at their home in the afternoons, evenings and night. I am used to doing a lot of this already, but normally I only need to be there between 6 and 9 p.m. to help with dinner and get her to bed.”
Dan’s feelings are the most recognizable part as he starts his story — more than his circumstances. That’s because his expressed feelings are just like yours and mine. After all, who hasn’t been faced with times when they feel “like too little butter spread over too much toast?” While the causes and situations of human tests and stresses vary, you and I can relate to Dan’s current circumstance and see how it sheds light on how such trials can enhance us, as if we’re jointly going through a refining process; the proverbial “refining pot” as described in many ancient texts.
As he continues, one can almost hear the billows from a refiner’s fire, as if they’re blowing his story forward and breathing it deep into the human chest.
“After a few days, my dad is discharged from the hospital. I pick him up, but he’s still weak and his legs are clearly getting weaker. I get him home in the late afternoon and get him settled in a chair. Then, I get my mom settled for the night and head home for the first time in over a week. Not long after arriving at my home I get a call from my dad at 10 p.m. He says that he’s struggling to breathe, so I head back over to his house. I get him in bed and comfortable after a while, then I head back home at about 11:30 p.m. and try and settle myself in for the night. At 1:45 a.m. my cell rings and it is my dad again; he has fallen and is tangled in his walker and can’t even get to a sitting position. So, I rush over and help untangle him from the walker and then drag him a little so I can get him into a better position on the floor. That’s when I call the paramedics so they can help me get him up from the floor. My back is so bad from trying to help lift the two of them over the years that I can’t do much to help anymore.”
Dan’s voice continues to act as billows to guide more reminders into the heart. It delivers another prompt. Extreme heat separates embedded impurities in a raw metal from what is precious. It allows impurities to be removed. It makes the precious more valuable.
“This is refining Dan,” is the message billowed forward, as he continued his story. “His heart is becoming more purified through this experience.”
“The next day, Dad is pretty out of it,” Dan continues. “So I come over to help with Mom, before I head over to the university so I can go to a much-anticipated football game. I’m enjoying the game right up to halftime, about 10 p.m. That’s when I get a call from my mom that Dad has fallen again and is on the floor in the hall, bleeding,” Dan says.
The refining billows are saying, wise people recognize, that just like crisis and opportunity, stress and growth are interdependent. Avoid one and you miss the other.
Another gust pushes through the refining-bellows whispering more of Dan’s seemingly “bad” news.
“The bad news, I think, is you can’t always control the timing, intensity or duration of personal external stressors. Stuff happens! Often without much warning,” Dan says as if adding illustration to his story. “The best you can do is to stay prepared and approach adversity with realism and resolve. That means confronting the brutal facts and then going to work.”
“The good news,” Dan says as he pushes forward with the telling of his story, “s that you and I can make controlled-use of difficult life experiences. We just have to understand the refining process and what it does for us.”
Here’s how Dan is getting through his personalized refining experience:
Dan knows who he really is. His core value and motivation are centered in love. So, even when he doesn’t think he can take it anymore, he can keep going. Because knowing who he really is, where he’s headed and what’s important in his life has given him clarity. Even when the smoke blown from refining-billows has become thick and confounding.
Dan’s clarity motivates consistency and persistent action, while navigating the inevitable ups downs he’s facing as a result of his mom and dad’s age and health issues. His clarity — based on his core value of love — keeps him on track when exhaustion, distractions and temptations could otherwise threaten to derail him.
There are times in life when a person is tested and stressed to the extreme. It happens to every one of us at one time or another. It’s a time when the refining-billows, used as part of life’s purifying process, are blowing seemingly insurmountable problems continually. This just happens to be one of those times for Dan Nichols.
It’s also a time when his goodness is being drawn out, so it can come to the surface. His impurities are being pushed aside.
Now, he has a more purified heart. A heart that’s being refined into pure gold.
Lynn Butterfield lives in Erda and is a managing broker for a real estate company.