Refinement is a funny word.
The ‘usual refinements’ in a Bentley Arnage may refer to heated leather seats, cruise control, automatic park-assist, a temperature controlled glove-box for the Bollinger and an armrest topped suspended storage solution for the crystal champagne flutes.
Refined sugar points us to candy white crystalline grains of equal size and shape, finer that rock salt and better tasting, coarser than cocaine and not as destructive.
A refined gentleman may describe someone who wears tweed, a neck-tie with a double Windsor knot and matching breast pocket handkerchief razzle-dazzle, who drives an old Jaguar in British Racing Green.
Our society sees refinement as an end or a product or something to be consumed. But refinement is not just an end. It is not just a product. Refinement is also a process. And hardly ever a fun one.
Silver is refined in a hot fire, when impurities float to the surface and can be extracted.
Footballers are refined through pre-season training, where the summer largesse is burnt away through the sheer pain of forced exercise.
Moses was refined when he spent years in the wilderness before being tasked with leading the people of Israel out of Egypt.
Adam was refined when he had to farm the ground by the toil of his arm and the sweat of his brow.
The woman with internal bleeding was refined as she desperately fought through the crowd swamping Jesus, seeking a mere tug of a hem.
Maybe some of you are in the midst of the process, feeling the heat of the fire, the pain of loss, the frustration of not knowing, the battle to carry on, the struggle to muster fortitude, the sapping of strength and the dissipation of mental energy.
Maybe you have been in the process for years, maybe just minutes. Maybe you are steadfastly clinging to whatever promise God has given you like a limpet, or maybe you are on the verge of giving up.
Maybe you are hurting, angry, beaten down and ready to quit. Maybe you are hopeful and summoning whatever thankfulness you can locate in your heart.
Maybe you are all of these things.
Child, God loves and looks upon you as a father does his child, not always stepping in right away because He wants a lesson to be learnt, experience to be won, knowledge to be obtained and faith to be strengthened.
He grins when you are thankful in the midst of a trial. He smiles when you speak His Word into a situation which looks hopeless. He delights in watching you grow and mature.
And He cheers every single time you acknowledge His supremacy even when circumstances paint a stormy picture.