While on vacation last summer, I had the opportunity to make a hand blown glass ornament, with very close supervision and much assistance! It was a fun experience, which resulted in the ornament in the picture here. When you’re a pastor, you start to see sermon illustrations all around you. This experience did not fail to have life lessons of it’s own, lessons about what it means to form and maintain friendships and community, something most of us are engaged in as the school year begins.
One of the things I quickly learned was that even though the professionals make working with hot glass look easy, the process actually takes a lot of time, patience, and work! Building community takes all of these things as well. They take the stick to put the glass on, and dip it into 2900-degree furnace in which there is molten glass. In order to give the ornament color, you take the hot glass and press it against color chips based on what you want the end look to be. In making mine, we used white, and two shades of blue. Eventually, all these colors were swirled to make the one ornament. The colors remind me of the various things in life that swirl together to make us who we are, our academics, work, extracurricular activities, where we live, etc, and some may show up more prominently than others. It is through these things that give our lives “color” that we often find the people who will be our community.
I found, however, that while getting connected to these things may be easy at first, making something of them is actually quite hard! In order to give the ornament it’s shape, you blow throw the pipe. It’s a lot harder than blowing up a balloon! You are supposed to keep a steady, firm pressure, but eventually you need air, and it’s hard to figure out how to make it all work. Once you get it started, however, it becomes easy to get the glass to expand, with a time or two where it gets harder again. This too reminds me of what it is like to develop new friendships. Often, it can be hard in a new place or group to find friends, and it feels like it takes a ton of work. Then, something clicks, and it becomes easy, yet there are still times where it takes a little more work.
The end result reminds me of community too. It’s beautiful, and yet it will always be a little bit fragile as well. You can’t just throw it around, or drop it, or not take some care in handling it. As long as we respect its fragility, it really is quite something to look at, and adds beauty to our lives. As you begin your semester, and form new relationships, continue old ones, and probably work on maintaining long distance connections with family and friends, may you enjoy all that glassblowing and community can be, yes work, but also fun, exciting and beautiful!