Several years ago, I heard this story about a goldsmith and his fire in a homily. Fr. Carl, the priest who would eventually marry Joshua and me, delivered it.
One day a woman went into a goldsmith’s shop to make a purchase. His hands were covered in soot, his apron stained, and his brow sweating. He stood over the fire, holding a golden ring above the forge in the grip of his tongs.
The woman watched him craft the gold with interest. It was a beautiful, pure material, perfect for its purpose.
“That doesn’t damage the gold?” she finally asked. “I can only imagine the fire would hurt it after a while.”
The man smiled. “The fire does put strain on the gold. It forces it to move in directions it couldn’t before. But that only helps mold it into what it will become. And I never leave it alone in the fire. I am always with it.”
The woman continued to watch as he carefully moved the gold through the flames, his eyes and hands never leaving it. He handled it as delicately as a parent handles a newborn child.
“How do you know when the ring is done?” she asked him.
The Creator removed the golden ring from the fire. He carefully inspected it, then showed the finished product to the woman.
“I know that it is perfectly complete when I can see my image in it.”
I often think of this story when I look at the wedding ring on my finger. My image looks back at me, because the gold is perfectly reflective. It is pure, beautiful, and symbolizes the consent my husband and I exchanged on our wedding day. And like the ring in the story, a goldsmith forged it in fire.
Of course, anyone sitting in Mass who hears this story in a homily can easily get the idea. God is the goldsmith—the creator—and we ourselves are the gold rings that He creates. His hands, attention, and guidance never leave us, even while we are subjected to the “flames” of life that mold us until we reflect God’s image.
Marriage is the most wonderful thing in the world. You get to live with your best friend, someone who always prioritizes you, and to build a life with someone you love. But marriage is also a fire that we choose to put ourselves into every day, for the rest of our lives. It purges us of our selfishness and molds us into the image of our Creator, as a wife, a husband, and God willing, as parents.
And when we ask God to be at the center of our marriage—starting with a wedding within the Church and continuing as we live in communion with His plan—we invite Him to hold us in His hands while we remain in the fire. We can choose to leave God behind in our marriages, to live un-freely, unfaithfully, and unfruitfully. But the fire is still there. The call to be selfless and live our lives for more than just ourselves remains no matter what we choose to do.
So, would you rather walk through the fire of marriage alone and get scorched time after time because you don’t have a Creator holding you in his hands? Or will you and your spouse allow yourselves to be molded in fire, into the image and likeness of God?