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A tool is meant to be used

I was standing outside our hospital pharmacy waiting to drop off some information the other day. Through the window I observed a series of 'apothecary' items, one of which is the old fashioned mortar and pestle. It reminded me there is always a little bit of a crushing process in life. The purpose of the pestle apparatus is to crush, grind, or mix whatever is in the bowl (mortar). Something is placed within the mortar, then through the action of the repeated blows and grinding of the pestle, the object in the mortar begins to change form. If it is corn, eventually the hardened pellet of corn will become like fine flour. When leaves are put in the mortar, the pounding begins to release the oils contained in the leaves, allowing a fragrance to be released. The bowl portion of the device is nothing without the "tool of action" (the pestle). It is the pestle which accomplishes the "transition" of substance from one form to another. One without the other is nice, but both are needed to bring change.

You cannot separate fools from their foolishness, even though you grind them like grain with mortar and pestle. (Proverbs 27:22)

Fools are not easily "changed" in their "form"! Even in the up and downs moments we might refer to as the "mortar and pestle" of life - no amount of "pounding, crushing, or grinding" is going to change the folly of a fool! If you have ever tried to change the foolishness of another person's ways, you might just realize this fact is spot on! If you have ever asked God to deal with the foolishness of your own heart, you have probably come to the place you realized you also struggle to resist his "pestle" working to bring change in your life from time to time! Yet, as he brings down the "pestle", it is with grace - he is never crushing us to hurt us, but to make us into something that no longer resembles the original form of what we were before he began - he sees something in us he desires to bring out with the action of the "pestle".

The most common symbol of a pharmacy is the mortar and pestle. It came to be known as the method of "compounding" the various substances we use in medicines today. Yet, as you may well imagine, if the mortar is not cleaned well between uses, what goes into the mortar to be "mixed" the next time will be contaminated by the trace elements that remain from the last time it was used. God takes great care to never allow the impurities of our lives to "contaminate" the final product he is after in his "mixing" process. To our talents, he adds his grace - refining them through the actions of the pestle against the mortar until they become one. To our resistance, he adds tender tugs - wearing away at our resistance until we become supple and yielding in his hands.

In some cultures, a large device is used, made of a hollowed log or large stone and a large piece of wood or another smooth stone which has been transformed into a pestle of sorts. The purpose of the device is to remove the husk of the grain that is being pounded upon that large log or stone. It is not so much to grind it into fine flour, but to get it to the point of being "penetrable" - something not possible until the hardened husk has been removed from the grain. Sometimes, God needs to do some "husk removing" in our lives before we are ready to be "penetrated" with his grace. In my case, the husk can be thicker than the grain inside! Thank goodness God is not giving up on removing the husks in our lives - because I am thinking the 'grain' he desires to use is something that will benefit us all.

Try as "we" might (and I daresay we all have tried), we cannot separate a fool from his folly. Try as "we" might, we cannot separate ourselves from our own foolishness (something we also have tried without great success). Then why do we get so "down" on ourselves when we "try to live right" and find ourselves failing? God has designed us to be "separated" from our foolishness (husks removed) through the actions of his repeated "passage" of grace in our lives. Think of it this way: His mortar is the present trial. His pestle bring the repeated "passage" of the thing that will "break through" our resistance to change. In the end - the substance that is produced has greater value - and a more pleasant "aroma"! If we really want to be separated from our folly, then we need to embrace the grace ever so present in the trial. The trial is a separating process - making us "penetrable" to God's touch. The process is difficult, but the end result is awesome. Just sayin!

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