Helen’s children loved her a lot, and they were always bringing her not only beautiful clothes but also reading material of all kinds, including books and magazines about her faith. We talked endlessly about these things, she in her quiet drawl, and I with unfettered enthusiasm that she, at least, seemed to appreciate.
One day Helen said excitedly that she’d read a wonderful little story about a silversmith, and that she wanted me to read it aloud so we could both enjoy it. But then she couldn’t find the publication it was in, so she told me about it instead, even though she sometimes had a hard time finding even everyday words.
“It was like this,” she said, smiling shyly. “There were these lady friends who were reading the Bible together and came across a verse they didn’t understand. I think it was in Malachi – can you look it up?”
I reached for my New American Standard Bible, my translation of choice at the time, and began searching for the Old Testament book of Malachi.
“I think it was chapter three,” she added.
Finding it at last, I started reading in verse one. She sat in her wheelchair, pressing her lips together and looking at the ceiling or the heavens, listening intently. It didn’t take long: When I started verse three, she cried, “That’s it! Start over again.”
“’He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver,’” I read, “’and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness.’”
“Yes, that’s the one,” she said. “So these ladies didn’t understand that verse, because they didn’t understand how silver was made. So one of them decided to find out. She went to a silversmith and asked him to show her exactly what he did. And so he did!”
Helen reached for her water cup and took a good long drink. She certainly wasn’t having much trouble with her words today.
“This lady’s idea was that this verse, the one you just read, had to do with the –“ And she was stumped. She looked at me and shook her head. “You know what it is. When He changes us.”
“Yes, that’s it,” she said, smiling at me gratefully. “Sanctifying. This lady thought this verse was intended to get that idea across, that God will purify us the way a silversmith purifies silver. And then two things.”
She paused to make sure she had it right.
“Yes. First, he told her that he just sits and watches the furnace every minute that the silver is in there, because it mustn’t go a moment longer than is needed or the silver will be hurt.”
We grinned at each other.
“He does that with us, you know,” she said. “He lets us go through trials but not more than –“ She stopped again and looked at me sadly.
“More than we can bear,” I said, nodding at her encouragingly. I looked at the verse again. “He will sit as a smelter and purifier…”
We grinned some more.
“You said there were two things, didn’t you, Helen?”
We both laughed; it was a rare visit when one of us didn’t forget something important we’d wanted to share.
“And it’s the best part,” Helen said. “You will love this. The lady asked the silversmith how he knew that his silver was ready. And he said—“ She looked at me with the giddiest expression on her face, as if she was about to deliver the greatest punchline of all time. “Do you know what he said, Kitty?”
I shook my head.
“He said, ‘It’s done when I can see my image reflected in the silver.’”
“I knew you’d love it. I do, too.”
(Adapted from Heaven Without Her, pp 235-237; originally posted 11/30/13)