Several years ago I found a large, cast-iron skillet at Goodwill. It was in rough shape, but I knew that with some work, I could turn it into something usable. I brought it home, scrubbed the rust and debris away, rubbed it down with some Crisco, and placed it on the burner to begin the seasoning process. I have been battling this cast-iron pan ever since.
The first lesson I learned is that Crisco has a low smoke point, so when I used the pan for cooking, smoke would fill the kitchen. I switched to using canola oil, and while that was better, I used too much causing it to leave a sticky residue.
Recently, I felt like I had finally won my battle with this pan. I had figured out how to remove the oil buildup and had a system of coating it with a thin layer of vegetable oil after use. It had developed the most beautiful, shiny, nonstick surface and was a dream to cook with—that is until last week’s naan bread incident.
The recipe called for heating the pan on high before placing oiled dough on the scorching surface for one minute each side. Well, after the first side, it was clear that I had a problem. The pan was so hot that the bread was blackened after just 30 seconds. The seasoning that I had worked so hard to develop was starting to crack and bubble, so I impulsively brushed oil on the skillet with a pastry brush. The bristles melted in seconds!
As I surveyed the damage through the billowing smoke that had begun to fill the house, I realized that my pan was ruined yet again. Once the smoke cleared, I set out on a mission to find the right way to strip and re-season my beloved skillet.
The method I settled upon instructed me to send it through my oven’s self-cleaning cycle. Again, smoke filled the room as layers upon layers of seasoning where being burned off. When I removed the pan, a dull gray had replaced its shiny, black surface.
The next step was to rub a thin coat of flaxseed oil into the pan and bake it at 500 degrees for 60 minutes. I was to then let it cool for at least 30 minutes before repeating the step five more times. I finished this process yesterday and am happy to report that my skillet is better than ever.
It occurred to me that our souls are a lot like that cast-iron pan. When I don’t feed my soul properly with prayer and time in God’s Word, I too can have a low smoke point. I am less patient and more easily annoyed by the people the Lord has placed in my life. Small irritations can cause me to lose my cool and spew blackened words.
When I fill my mind with junk, a sticky residue of negative thoughts and attitudes gets left behind. The media I turn to for entertainment has a huge impact on how I see myself and the world around me. Sexually graphic and violent television shows, movies, and books are the most obvious culprits, but I have come to realize that the 24-hour news cycle and talk radio can have just as negative of an impact.
When I use my soul improperly—lying, cheating, stealing, substance abuse, sexual immorality, gossip—I cause tremendous damage and am no longer useful in God’s Kingdom or able to accomplish His plan for my life.
Thankfully, like my pan, we are never too far gone for God to make something beautiful out of our mess. Scripture references the heat of the refiner’s fire over and over again. Like the process of heating a pan to the point where all of the gunk is burned off, God will sometimes take us through difficult circumstances in order to remove the impurities and strip us down to nothing before He builds us back up.
The process can be painful and one that needs to be repeated again and again, but in the end we find that our faith has grown stronger and we are more equipped to live out God’s plan and purpose for our lives.