Polishing - Wax On Wax Off
I went to confession recently and spoke to the priest about a difficult relationship. He said that God was using that person to polish me. Hmm. I don’t like being polished. It doesn’t feel good. It makes me angry and resentful. It destroys my peace. It brings out the worst in me and causes me to sin, which is why I ended up in Confession. And frankly, in my pride, I don’t want the worst in me to come out. I want to believe that part of me isn’t there. But it is.
This idea of being polished reminds me of the original Karate Kid movie. There is a scene where the kid is waxing the car – wax on, wax off. He thinks it’s a waste of time, but later realizes that waxing the car taught him a move helpful in karate. My polishing has the same effect. It strengthens me in my walk as a Christian.
There are several places in scripture that talk about the refiner’s fire and the purification process. The fire is what burns off the dross, the impurities, and makes silver shine. It looks like a pretty harsh process, but that’s what it takes to refine silver. Refining or purifying a person takes work, too. It seems like a harsh process as well. We face all kinds of difficulties and injustices. So did Jesus. We may face hate. So did Jesus. We may be ridiculed or mocked. So was Jesus. And Jesus didn’t need any purification. But I sure do!
Still, I resist being polished. I feel like a little kid saying to Mommy – "I don’t want to do it. It’s too hard!" And Mommy says, "It IS hard, but you can do it." I think I need that kind of encouragement to allow myself to be polished.
For me, getting polished is hard work, but in the end, there is great benefit. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:7 that he had a thorn in the flesh and had asked God three times to remove it, but God told him no. My grace is enough. Paul was being polished. When I pray for the difficult situations in my life to be removed, sometimes God tells me no. He says, "my grace is enough." He says, "I am using them to polish you." He says, "This is good for you. You can endure this. You will come out stronger."
How do we respond to being polished? All of us have someone in our life (or many someones) who God uses to polish us. The world tells us to remove them – stay away from them. You don’t need that negativity or frustration. Sometimes that’s true. We need to remove toxic and harmful people from our lives. That’s prudence.
But there are others who are just annoying or take advantage or are not grateful or say ugly things to us. It is reasonable to want them out of our lives – to not have to deal with them. But what if they are the very people we need to grow in holiness? What if they are the very people God has put in our life for our polishing? Then what? If God chose that specific difficult person for you because He knows that person will help you grow in holiness, can you embrace that? Can you embrace them? Can you allow Him to polish you through them?
We all have people in our lives who have polished us. My husband and son through the years have called me out on something I did that didn’t align with my faith. I didn’t like it, but they were right. They were polishing me.
When I resist polishing, I have to ask myself: Am I satisfied with my dullness or do I want to shine? There is a great quote from the late Pope Benedict XVI. He said: "The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” I am comfortable when everything around me is calm and peaceful. But I gain strength through adversity, not through comfort. I am made for greatness. I am made to shine.
Great saints get polished. If we want to be a great saint – and we are made for greatness so we should want that – we will endure the trials that come with difficult people in our lives because that is what makes us stronger. I want to shine. I just wish there was an easy way, but there is not. It’s wax on, wax off – over and over again.
The virtue needed to be polished – to be great – to shine – is the virtue of humility. You’re probably thinking – Oh Man! That’s the hard one. (It is!) Humility helps us be patient with our own defects and with the defects of others. I need to be patient with my own defects because I have them. When I’m being polished, that’s when I’m reminded of those defects. When everything is good, nobody annoying is around, I’m physically healthy, I had enough sleep, I’m not hungry - at those times I am a joy to be around. But when I’m being polished – well – that’s another story. I have to be patient with myself. That takes humility – to accept my imperfections. And if I can understand my own defects and, dare I say, excuse them, why can’t I have the same approach to the other people in my life? It takes humility.
Know this also. We are rarely being polished 24/7. We have breaks when God gives us rest and blessings. We can use that time to refill our spiritual tank, to recharge our spiritual batteries, for the next time of polishing.
Maybe you doubt that God can use the thorns in your life to polish you. I mean, sure, he did it for Paul, but I don’t think it works that way for me. I challenge you to think back in your life to some of the difficult relationships you have had. Can you see some good that came out of them? Can you see how God used that person to polish you? Or maybe used you to bring that person to know Jesus.
Maybe your marriage has had ups and downs, but you persevered. Maybe there was a time when you hit your breaking point, but your spouse didn’t and you stayed together. I’ll bet if you talk to couples that have been married for decades, especially those in their 70s and 80s, they will tell you it hasn’t been easy. But they persevered and now have something they never dreamed of. They were being polished in their marriage. It’s easy to give up. It’s hard to get polished. But if you allow yourself to be polished and push through it – finding your breaking point and pushing it further, you grow stronger. God makes you shine like the sun, because you are, in fact, a reflection of the Divine Son.
You were made for greatness. You were made to shine. You were made for God. So let’s embrace the polishing that draws us closer to Him.
Questions for prayer:
How have you been polished in the difficult relationships of your life? What fruits can you identify from that polishing?
Who is God using in your life today to polish you? Are you resisting? How can you be more open to God’s work through this thorn in your side?