So in my daughter’s history this week we learned about vulcanization. At first I thought they were slipping in Star Trek—wasn’t one of them a Vulcan or something? Then I realized they were slipping science in, and I got a bit sweaty because I try to avoid science at all costs, which is kinda hard since I’m supposed to be the kids’ teacher…but I digress…
Anyway, we were learning about the history of rain forests and how latex is taken from trees there and that lead to this term: vulcanization—which I swear is science cloaked as history—but once I got past that point, I saw this really cool connection and I was like, “Oh! That’s me!! I’ve been vulcanized! Lotsa times!”
See, rubber (as latex) in its natural state is rather useless. It crumbles in extreme temperatures and doesn’t possess the elasticity needed to work, and it’s stinky. But—get this—when scientists apply heat and pressure and add sulfur to it, it improves not only the strength and resiliency but also removes the odor.
Basically, some kind of chemical mumbo jumbo occurs that I won’t pretend to understand, but here’s the gist of it:
Latex + heat + pressure + sulfur = resilient, strong, elastic, odorless, useful, rubber.
Okay, starting to see where I’m headed? Let’s start with the fact that basic latex is stinky and not very useful. Reminds me of myself before God. Anyone else relate? But you add a little heat and some pressure, and you begin to get something new. Ever feel that in your life? None of us enjoy those times when we’re being pressed or going through the fire, but we come out the other side a new creation—at least we do when something is added to the heat and pressure.
In vulcanization, that additive is sulfur. So I looked it up, and here's some of it’s properties: odorless, used in fertilizers, bleaching agents, and insulators. The site says “sulfur is essential for life.” Hmm…reminded me of God in my life. God removes my odor, allows me to fertilize those around me, bleaches me white as snow, and insulates me from the world. And like latex, He also changes me into something useful—He’s the sulfur in my vulcanization. Without Him, the heat and pressure would eat me alive! He’s essential to my life.
So once we’ve been vulcanized, what properties do we acquire?
Resiliency – Able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.
Strength – Solid, tough; not easily broken or injured; able to withstand violence and attacks; not easily subdued or taken.
Elasticity – Easily resumes original shape after being stretched or expanded; flexible.
Now those are qualities I want to possess.
Yet all too often we buckle under the pressure and stop the process before it produces its results. But if we want Him to use us, we need to let the entire process—heat, pressure, Him saturating our lives—occur. He’s got a plan, and we need to let Him see it through, because if we do, we'll become a product He can use.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4