As Iron Sharpens Iron...
"As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."
One of the best shows my son and I started watching recently is called FORGED IN FIRE. It is a show about a compeition between bladesmiths. And although most of the blades on the show end up being made of some kind of steel, one trademark of the show is when the bladesmiths go to grind away to fine tune the final shape and sharpness of their blades. And steel is an alloy of iron. So whenever I think of the sharpening of knives (I have a neat little collection myself that I sharpen on occasion), I think of the verse from Proverbs listed above.
While most people may think of other verses when they think of the concept of friends, my mind often drifts to this one...especially the older I get. This might not be as true for some people as it is for others, because it really does depend on what your goals and intentions are. If my goal is to be the best model Christ follower I can be, then I think this verse is paramount.
When I was growing up, I tried to pick friends that had similar interests to mine. Although I would never ask for different friends than my closest friends growing up (you know who you are), in those early days I don't think those friends helped sharpen me as much as they helped me find my identity. Hey - that's pretty important, too! But I was reminded today, as I sat across a table at lunch from a man whom I admire and look up to for his accomplishments and shared Christian values, who is just a little further along down this life road then I am (hehe), I realized it is these friends later in life that help sharpen you; they help you focus yourself to a point; they help you realize where you are dull; they help you get out the imperfections; Heck - they can even correct you if they think you are a little warped - HA! If you ever see bladesmiths at work, you may understand that.
But over the years, as I have matured in my faith, I have encountered both older friends and younger friends who have helped do this for me. And it has been most noticeable when it was a friend who shared faith in Jesus Christ. Why is that?
For starters, it goes right along with the verse listed above, that happens to be in a book of the Old Testament written by a man who some say was one of the wisest men to walk the planet. But let's dive even deeper.
If one does not have Christ, or answer to a higher power for that matter, than their inner purpose could be in question. But with Christ, the purpose is clear. And the sharper one is for that purpose, the better suited they are to reach the world for Christ, helping to make disciples of all nations. In the show I mentioned earlier, the bladesmiths must forge blades that have to pass various tests demonstrating how well they serve very specific purposes. While some blades may be very sharp, they may not be very strong. While some blades may be very sharp at the point, they may have a dull edge. While some blades look amazing, the core of the iron alloy may not be structurally sound for the blade to actually serve its purpose. And here is where the analogy gets fun. Like I said earlier, I had friends earlier in life to help me discover my identity. I had friends later who even maybe helped forge a foundation for me, perhaps a foundation of purpose, so to speak. They lit a little fire in me. I had some friends toughen me up, hammer me out, push me around...you're getting the picture, right?
And as I look like an almost complete blade - not so fast! I need to be sharpened. And that sharpening has to come more than once. I may be tested and tried throughout my life. I may even become warped, or bent, and some other iron tool will be used to make me a sharp, working blade once again.
Why did I want to write this today? After eating lunch with my friend Rick, God hit me in the heart because of little things I've been worried about, just to help me understand how blessed I was to have so many friends who contribute to helping me fulfill my purpose. I have friends who will meet me for lunch who can give me inspiration and ideas to make my fictional stories more interesting. I can meet up with friends who will help me re-focus on the things that are important when the craziness of this world gets me down. I have friends who I may have only met in person briefly, but shared their personal faith and beliefs with me through Facebook or interviews, and I discovered we are kindred spirits. I have friends who were part of my youth and helped me find my identity, who happen to still grab my attention sometimes to this day and help me stay sharp.
So I just want anyone reading this to ask yourself, who do you have in your life that keeps you sharp? Who helps bring the best out of you to help you in your purpose for life? Is there anyone who has helped you find that purpose? Perhaps they help you hone your sharp edge often. Or perhaps we all need to be sharpened a little more often. I am mainly thinking out loud here, or rather, on a computer screen - but I am eternally grateful for the good Lord's other pieces of iron out there, that help me maintain that edge. And if you are one of those fellow pieces of ironwork who feels like you've contributed personally to my sharp edges, please accept my sincerest gratitude.
God bless you, everyone!