Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Coal or Diamond? - Part 1

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Over the last week or so, we've talked about being unique and about the importance of making sure God was in the driver's seat.  That group of posts seemed to resonate a lot with people. We got quite a few comments on various parts of the last one in particular.

Between conversations in the comments and some similar posts, it all got me thinking about the chain of events That took me from point A (birth) to point B (this very moment).  And, probably most important, the mindset that makes up point B.

The beginning illusration for this post is a chunk of anthracite coal.  I'd venture a guess that most of our readers grew up in a culture that fed its children some variation of the Santa Claus myth.  And the kids were told that, if they weren't good, they'd get a lump of coal instead of valued presents.  We saw no value in the coal.  And, somehow, in the back of our minds, some part of our lives got equated to the lack of value we saw in that lump of coal.  Fast forward twenty years and we're still tied to that lump of coal.  And we're both right and wrong.  Take a look at what I mean.

image used under Creative Commons license, photo by Roger Barker
We tend to see that diamond to the right as having great value.  At the same time, we see the lump of coal, at the top of the post, as having little or no value.  What we rarely think about is that a diamond started as a lump of coal.  Pressure and heat were exerted on the piece of coal. The result is usually another stone, clouded by its exterior imperfections. Most of us would pass right by it without giving it a second glance.  A diamond doesn't look like the gem in that picture until it's been examined and cut with a chisel by an expert diamond cutter.  We'll discuss that later in this series, but I want to look at something that stuck out like a sore thumb for me.  A very interesting thought about our coal versus diamond train of thought.

As I was researching, I discovered that diamonds burn.  That's a quality it retains from being coal.  I suspect it might not burn as well.  And the financial hit on my wallet would certainly give me hesitation about using diamonds for fuel.  The "value" of a diamond is strictly based on the appearance of the finished product.  Contrast that with coal.  Coal has been used for centuries as fuel to heat buildings and cook food.  We're still addicted to the flavor from grilling.  It doesn't cost anywhere near as much as diamonds.  We certainly wouldn't offer someone an engagement ring made with a piece of coal.  But coal certainly has a daily value that diamonds don't.

When we talk about the process of going from coal to becoming a diamond, there are clear cut steps.  The coal starts "as is", undergoes heat and pressure, and turns into a dull stone, clouded by external imperfections.  Then, a diamond cutter examines the stone to determine the proper way to cut it, makes the cuts, and polishes the final result.  Our lives go through similar steps, with one major difference.

We humans have a way of seeming to start as diamonds, convert to coaldom, only later possibly becoming diamonds, again.  We lose sight of the coal-like period in our lives possibly having the most spiritual value in our lives.  Despite the fact that much of it may not be pretty or pleasant.

Jeremiah 1:5 (KJV)  Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

God is speaking to Jeremiah, there.  But there are principles that apply to all of us.

  1. Whether we believe in Him or not, God created us.
  2. God knew what He was creating when He allowed the sperm to connect  to the egg.  Our embryo wasn't randomly generated.
  3. We are set aside, made holy, set apart for God.  And that happens while we're still in the womb.  Why some don't fulfill that is a different discussion that relates to God allowing us free will.
  4. Ordination defines function.  So, not only does God separate us (sanctify), He also defines our specific purpose (ordain).
All of that happens before we give out our first cry, after birth.  To put that on a more personal level, I was born a gimp.  No, I'm not going to try to be politically correct or sugar coat reality.  Whether terms can be OK or not should depend on the user and their intent on using them, not whether someone else decides they want to be overly sensitive.  But that gets away from the point.

It's not important to know the physical reasons I was handicapped, just that it was the hand I was dealt at birth.  When God merged sperm and egg inside my mother, He knew what would happen when I was born.  And He set me aside for Himself.  I don't believe that part is unique.  God's love for His creation has Him desiring that we all remain in unity with Him.  What we learn, combined with the attitudes we develop will either allow that to continue or start us on a path that deviates from oneness with God.  But it's our own choices that make the difference.

Within all that is a job, precise purpose.  If we look closely, that always involves people.  And it involves our relationship with God.  Whether I stray or not, how I function is intended to draw me closer to God and to draw others to Him.  Perhaps by my bad example.  Some of the things I did very wrongly in the past have been used by God to shape who I am in Him, now.

As we go through this series, I'm going to be more personal than I usually am in my posts.  That is not because I think I have great insights I need to share, although God has given me some interesting ones.  But it is because I'm well aware of how much of a screwup I've been and how God has used even that to move me and others in the right direction.  That time of being coal instead of a diamond had more to do with how I would share my Lord with others than any of the times I've been more diamond-like.  We'll go into more detail, next time.  Till then, there's a question.  Do you consider your life to have been more coal or diamond?  And what is the value in your life of each?


  1. Great thoughts Bill. I guess it how we handle the pressures and the cutting whether or not we remain a lump of coal for become the diamond we were created for.

    1. You're on the right track, Jon. But I'm almost thinking of the cutting in a different way. But I'll get to that as the series unfolds.