“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean,
who is neither tarnished nor afraid.”
(polishing a few silver pieces / Julie Cook / 2015)
There once was a time, several generations ago, when young brides-to-be would receive silver items as wedding gifts. Sterling silver, as well as silver-plate, trays, bowls, silverware, etc. all most often monogramed. It was all the rage. Girls would register at various stores for a particular silver pattern such as something produced by the likes of Reed and Barton, Gorham, Tiffany, Wallace to name but a few. Gifts would range from place settings, a single serving piece, picture frames, ornaments, candle sticks. . .with the list going on and on.
As each generation seems to set its own mark on the world, it appears that today’s modern day brides-to-be are a bit more practical in their choices of what sorts of gifts they’d like to receive. Coffee machines–as in cappuccino, espresso, single cup. . .towels–both kitchen and bath, sheets, glasses, plates, bar ware, cookware, outdoor serving items, candles, goodies form Crate and Barrel, William Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Macys as their lists go on and on.
By the time I got married, almost 35 years ago, silver was not as popular a wedding gift as it was in, say, my mother’s day. The cost of sterling silver had begun a slow assent upwards and the truth be told, the upkeep and usability of silver was quickly loosing its appeal and practicability. Shiny pretty silver certainly has a wow factor but keeping that brilliant mirror surface sheen is another matter entirely.
We all know from basic chemistry that certain metals, when exposed to various substances, can change. In the case of silver, especially sterling silver, a mixture of air and hydrogen sulfide turns the surface of silver items, at first a cloudy dull grey gold which will, if not wiped away, eventually turn black.
Tarnish luckily is not a permeant problem. However if salt is added to the mix, a silver piece really has problems! The salt will corrode the surface, eating into several layers of the silver, pitting the item–with the damage sadly being permanent.
Polishing silver, in order to remove the tarnish, is an arduous painstaking task. It is a labor intensive, time consuming and messy process. When the silver piece is polished, using a cream paste and soft cloth, a thin micro layer of the surface is taken away as the tarnish resides only on the top layer—the other layers remain intact. Rust on the other hand is a corrosive reaction on certain metals which eats through layer upon layer, eventually destroying the metal.
Tarnish is often what deters folks these days from wanting to buy silver items. The upkeep in today’s busy, everybody’s working world, is enough to turn anyone away from the beautiful things found in today’s antique and specialty stores.
As we all know. . .tarnish will always comes back.
I’m a lot like silver.
Being exposed to certain elements, I eventually succumb to the effects of “tarnish.” I lose my brilliant surface appearance, my beauty fades as I eventually turn a very dull lifeless black.
I allow the oxidizing agents of the world to affect my sheen and brilliance. I become sullied and dulled by the exposure to negative elements. Not merely the eating and drinking of the wrong elements for my betterment, but to the more shady and insidious elements. . .those negative things which I expose my eyes, ears, heart and mind to. . .be it certain forms of entertainment such as music, television, movies, even down to the books and magazines I choose to read. . .I allow negativity, violence, foul useless language, sexual promiscuity and selfish gratification to permeate my world. I am lured away from that which helps to keep the tarnish at bay.
God looks and sees a once brilliantly shining creation dulled and darkened by the exposure of time away from Him. . .His word, His people, His realm.
My perception dims.
I can’t distinguish that which is positive and that which is the negative.
Exposure to the world verses exposure to my Christian spirituality. . .as sadly I choose, even often unknowingly, the world.
I allow an often tired body and mind to choose the easy way. . .the path of less resistance to dominate and take over. In order for me to choose God and His desires, it calls upon certain factors such as vigilance, diligence, observance, prayer, fasting, communion, reading and digesting the Word, healing, confession, even praise—often times not easily felt or desired. Sometimes it all seems to be counter to my mood, my disposition, my feelings, my abilities, my strength. . .a conscious choice and determination must take hold. . .
Yet thankfully God does not tire of polishing or re-polishing.
He doesn’t mind the time and effort spent.
He doesn’t mind the elbow grease required to wipe away the heavy layer of darkness which encases my entire being.
Slowly but surely the black is lovingly removed as the tiny areas of brilliance begin to reemerge.
God holds me, enfolds me within His welcoming hands. He gently, yet determinedly, focuses in order to rub over and over those negative tarnished areas of my heart and soul.
Allowing the brilliance, that is His creation. . .
to shine forth, yet once again. . .
“For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day.