I don’t know how many of you are into metallurgy, but when you’re putting ores and additives through the process of making some metal or alloy of metals, as I understand it, you end up with something called dross. It’s kind of like the scum you get on top of the soup you’re cooking, except with metal, it’s a lot more important to scoop that crap off unless you want buildings falling down and cars falling apart.
So to refine metal, to get out its impurities, it has to go through the fire.
Nothing new there. Nor is it new to apply that philosophy to life. The bible talks about putting people through the metaphorical fire to make them into something stronger. It’s a philosophy that also exists outside religion: “No pain, no gain” and “You have to pay your dues” are just two examples.
Generations X and Y have been accused of laziness and complacency at times. It’s true and it isn’t. (I’m an X, by the way…nice to meet you). It’s said that we rely too much on our parents and that we aren’t willing to work responsibly or work hard.
The truth is more that the world changed, and X and Y got faced with entirely new economic dynamics and new rules that don’t always respond to the solutions that suited Baby Boomers and their immediate predecessors.
But in there is also some truth in the criticism, and I see it more the older I get. Members of Generations X and Y can be a bit quick to want recognition and reward, before they’ve proven themselves. They can be fabulously self-centered in ways that are distinct from the often self-absorbed and sometimes self-important Baby Boomers.
But one thing about the Baby Boomers is that they were able in many cases to achieve and build nest eggs and help their progeny get going in life. They may have been less religious and less dogmatic than their parents, but they still often saw value in religion and in seeking God.
I wonder, though, if the increasing way that people are distancing themselves from God, especially in the younger generations, has more to do with the way the world is going and the way we X’s and Y’s see the world. And perhaps less about reason and science making religion irrelevant.
You see, too often, we young-ish folks (if I can still call myself that at 41) want results with minimal work. We want answers and solutions now. We don’t want to wait on God. And so when God doesn’t respond to us immediately, and we look back at history and say, “why does he let this crap happen” we decide that He must not exist. Because if He won’t just give us what we want now, how could He?
Too many of us don’t value the notion that we are works in progress. That our time on this planet is less about getting what we want and more about learning lessons. It’s a lesson that even atheists should take to heart more often. Because particularly for those who don’t believe there is anything beyond this life, there is precious little time to grow up and make something useful out of oneself.
For those who are agnostic, or those who, like me, are in a faith walk with God, it’s time for us to realize that we are put through a fire. We are meant to feel pain. It’s terrible when some people have to live with almost nothing but pain and stress and misery, but we humans aren’t alone in that. We like to think we are, but we’re not.
Whether you want to credit evolution (genetic and social both) or God’s will…or a combination of the two…a pristine, trouble-free world isn’t the kind of world that will push us to become something stronger or smarter or more useful to ourselves and others.
Pain is necessary. Whether we like it or not, we must all pass through the fire, some of us more often than others.
We need to pay our dues. We need to see the value in that and make something good out of it in the end. Or at least as good as we can.
If we don’t, we remain children. We don’t grow. Not in this world, and not in God’s plan.