“What is dross?” Hannah whispered during yesterday’s worship service. She was referring to a stanza of “How Firm a Foundation” that we had just finished singing.
When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
I whispered back that dross is the scum on the surface of molten metal, but the sermon that followed illustrated the meaning of dross better than the dictionary definition. Dr. Young talked about the refining process that Job experienced through his suffering: what satan meant for evil, God turned into good. Dr. Young also quoted one of my favorite children’s books, The Velveteen Rabbit, to give us a taste of the transforming power of trials and troubles.
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
I’m reluctant to agree with the Skin Horse when he says that you don’t mind being hurt when you’re Real. But I have learned a very important lesson from fiery trials: God is with us when we suffer, dross is removed, and we become Real—really useful to Him, and to others.