By day, I am a devilishly handsome content writer for Mormonhub.com. By other parts of the day, I am a devilishly handsome stained glass artist. Ok, I don’t actually consider myself an artist, but I do work with stained glass. I’ve been doing it for about four years off and on at a place called Holdman Studios. I’ve learned a surprising amount of wisdom about life from glass. I’ve learned even more about faith.
By looking at my experiences and the process of building a stained glass window, I’ve found at least five lessons on faith. They aren’t perfect metaphors and they don’t go in order as far as building windows go. I’ve put them in the order that I think might be most beneficial to building our faith. Though they might seem simple, they are true, and hopefully, they can help your faith grow as they did mine.
1. Breaking Is Part of the Process
In all of my time working with stained glass, I’ve broken countless pieces of glass, most on purpose, though many on accident. At first, you feel really stupid when you break something you don’t mean to. Little by little, you get used to it. You also feel really cool when you break something correctly. Let me explain that.
Before I started working with glass, I never knew that breaking was how you cut and shape the glass. Oh yes, in most cases you don’t cut the glass, you break it. In our shop, we use diamond edged glass cutters (misnomer) that create a score mark on the glass. You then encourage the break through tapping, pulling, and other tools and techniques. It is a very tedious process.
Our faith can be the same way. Sometimes the Lord scores us and then helps us break. I mean that sometimes he breaks our heart. This is actually a good thing (when the Lord does it). We’re supposed to have broken hearts. Elder Bruce D. Porter taught us:
“When our hearts are broken, we are completely open to the Spirit of God and recognize our dependence on Him for all that we have and all that we are.”
Having a broken heart also helps us prepare to repent. It hurts a lot of the time, but through breaking, God can shape us into the piece we need to be to help create a beautiful stained glass window.
2. Strong Stained Glass Needs Heat
At so many stages of the building process, heat is required. At our studio, it is most often required at the soldering stage. This is where the builder solders the joints of lead together. This takes a window from being a glorified jigsaw puzzle to being an actual solid pane of art glass. This skill took me months of practice. If you use too little heat, the solder doesn’t melt. If you use too much heat, the lead cane melts. There is always a proper balance.
Such heat can often be uncomfortable. I’ve been burned countless times by putting my arms down where I shouldn’t have. In our church, we definitely believe in a similar thing. We call it the Refiner’s Fire. It’s the idea that there are specific trials that make us stronger than we were. President James E. Faust taught this when he said:
“In the pain, the agony, and the heroic endeavors of life, we pass through a refiner’s fire, and the insignificant and the unimportant in our lives can melt away like dross and make our faith bright, intact, and strong.”
Such agony is never fun. It tempers our faith though. If we let it, these difficult trials can build and strengthen our faith. This means that there will be times that we won’t be happy. There will also be times when we will be happy and strong thanks to these difficult trials. I promise our Lord is using the perfect balance of heat in each of our individual circumstances. He is strengthening us always.
3. We Need to Be Reinforced
Where I work, we add steel bars onto the windows to give extra strength. If there is no reinforcing material, over time the lead will sag and the window will eventually crack and break. We solder lengths of steel onto the backside of the window to help lend its strength to the overall structure of the window.
In our personal lives, we will often need to rely on other sources of strength when we fall short. More than anything else, our faith will ultimately be useless if we do not rely upon the strength of Jesus Christ. He is the “author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
At our shop, stained glass windows aren’t generally finished being built until they have been reinforced with steel. Our faith will never be complete without Christ. Even when we do have faith in Christ, it is His strength that reinforces ours, even to the producing of miracles. Elder Marcus B. Nash taught:
“We too can exercise such faith in the Lord, believing and trusting that our kind and constant God will bless us with His miraculous power suited to our circumstance, according to His timing. As we do so, we too will see the hand of God manifest in our lives.”
Though I use the metaphor of steel soldered onto a stained glass window, it isn’t a truly accurate metaphor. Christ’s power does much more in comparison. In fact, Christ did everything. All we have to do is accept His “everything” (including His commandments) and follow His lead. Sounds simple. Luckily, He’s there for us when it is anything but “simple”.
4.There is Always More to Clean
By far, the worst part about working with stained glass windows is having to clean them. We use various chemicals for different parts of the building process and so the windows get very dirty. Most of the windows we work with are installed into temples around the world. This means that the cleaning standards are generally very high. This means that I have spent countless of hours cleaning windows….piece by piece….
You can’t see me right now but I am rocking back and forth in the fetal position.
But seriously, this is exactly like our faith. We work hard on buffing out the rough edges of our lives, but invariably there’s always something else to clean. We might get frustrated with having to deep clean the inward parts of our soul, but we should be grateful for the chance. We can change. This is a true miracle.
Though it might be a miracle, it is still very tedious. It takes a long time, probably a lifetime or more to really get it right. Luckily, we have Jesus Christ, who can be with us and work with us to get it right, eventually. With Him, there is hope for everyone, no matter how dirty the “window”. Elder Shayne M. Bowen taught:
“The Atonement of Jesus Christ is available to each of us. His Atonement is infinite. It applies to everyone, even you. It can clean, reclaim, and sanctify even you.”
It is a long, tedious process, but we can always make progress. Luckily we don’t have to be completely perfect in this life. We can rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and work steadily toward that worthy goal. For Heavenly Father, that’s good enough.
5. Stained Glass Windows Are Made Piece by Piece
My favorite part of working with stained glass windows is actually putting them together. This is to mean fitting them together like a puzzle using pieces of lead. This part is the most fulfilling because you see the window forming right in front of you.
Another cool thing to realize is that the windows are built piece by piece. In some windows, that means handling hundreds of individual pieces. Each piece has a specific place. This is a wonderful metaphor for how faith grows. Sometimes our faith grows by leaps and bounds. Other times it grows very slowly. We learn based on our experiences, our attitudes, and perspectives. It grows piece by piece though.
Our faith grows through revelation. With communication from the Lord, we learn and progress. Even revelation often comes piece by piece, though we might want it otherwise. Elder David A. Bednar taught:
“Most frequently, revelation comes in small increments over time and is granted according to our desire, worthiness, and preparation.”
This means we need to be patient with ourselves and trust that the Lord will give us the knowledge and faith we need in His timing. We need to trust that whatever we lack in faith can be made up for, through the power of Christ. It means that we can trust in the Author of the Plan to work His Plan. He will grant greater faith. It may take some time, but it always comes at precisely the right time.
A Work of Beautiful Art
Our faith is a beautiful work of art. It will take time and be very tiresome to build. It will also be worth it. Stained glass can make any room seem more sophisticated. There is a reason (besides the privacy) we put stained glass windows in all of our temples. The Lord loves beauty. To Him, we are much more beautiful than any work of art. He’s willing to spend time and eternity helping us become like Him. Just remember these five faith lessons, and your stained glass window of faith will turn out a masterpiece. It’ll be worth it. I promise.
Please share any experiences you’ve had that are similar to these lessons in the comments below.