My oldest son, Ryan, attends school at the American College of the Building Arts (ACBA) in Charleston, South Carolina in the USA. It’s a unique university that according to their mission statement “educates and trains artisans in the traditional building arts to foster exceptional craftsmanship and encourage the preservation, enrichment, and understanding of the world’s architectural heritage through a liberal arts education.” Or as I explain it, the school teaches ‘old world’ crafts (blacksmithing, plaster work, stone carving, timber framing) with ‘new world’ application.
He really came a long way during the freshman grind, but now that he’s finished his sophomore year, we’ve been amazed at the level of quality his work has gained! But while most schools break for the summer, the students at ACBA continue their education by securing a required internship of some kind. Some of the craftsmen find local restoration work in historic Charleston or back in their hometowns, while others take advantage of the connections the instructors and administrators have with artisans around the world.
This summer, Ryan is in Italy. He left 2 weeks ago and for almost 3 months, he’ll apprentice under 3 different master blacksmiths in Bologna and Rome. (How’s that for a summer job!) It was a little strange to pack him off and send him alone to a foreign country to live in the home of families that we’ve never met, but once he got there and settled in, we have been vicariously enjoying his Italian excursions and discoveries via picture and text messaging.
Amid the stunningly beautiful architecture and countryside, we’ll occasionally get a post from him with the header “Strange European Discovery”. (“Volume One” had to do with Dutch toilets!) but his most recent one informed us that: “Cow intestines don’t taste too bad when cooked in the right sauce.”
After a few funny jokes back and forth, I finished the exchange by saying “I’m glad to know you’ve learned how to eat what’s put in front of you… even if it is cow intestine!” To which he replied, “Many years of training.”
I smiled and thought… he’s right. It did take a lot of years of insisting that he and his siblings try new foods rather than assuming that they won’t like something that looks different. And even when they didn’t necessarily love a particular dish, I kept saying ‘taste it again’ (and again, and again). You may learn to actually like it if you keep trying.’ As a result, I have 4 kids who are all really good eaters and even ask for things like brussels sprouts, zucchini, quinoa and spinach… and apparently will now even eat cow intestines!
You know, the broader encouragement I get from that story is one that applies to the spiritual conditioning God desires for us. Often in the middle of His training process, it’s hard to see that anything is being accomplished. You can read about God’s promises of restoration and hear testimonies of lives that are dramatically transformed, but look at your own life with frustration. There seem to be more setbacks and exasperations than victories. But like training a child to eat well, the progress does eventually happen, even if at times it seems slow and barely measurable.
So if you are in one of those seasons where you can’t see much change in your life. Be encouraged and hang in there. Remember that just because you don’t see anything happening at the moment, remember Philippians 1:6 and know that “He (Jesus) who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it.” In the meantime, gratefully receive whatever has been set before you and with thanksgiving allow Him to sustain your mind, body and spirit so that you can continue to “grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Pet. 3:18