A few summers ago my sister and I took our grandkids to Living History Farms in Iowa to see how people lived more than a hundred years ago. At the blacksmith shop, as they watched the “smithy,” one of them got to hold an iron in the fire until it turned red hot. Then the smithy pulled the iron out and hammered the hot metal into shape. When the metal cooled and became too brittle to work with, back into the fire it went.
A blacksmith working on one iron at a time, pulling it out, working on it, plunging it back in, and waiting for it to heat up again, would not accomplish much in a day. So he works on several pieces at a time, hammering on one while the others are heating. However, the metal can’t be left in the forge too long or it will lose its shape. A good blacksmith knows just how many pieces of work he can manage at a time.
That’s where we get the phrase “too many irons in the fire.” What an apt description of our lives when we try to juggle too many projects at once and end up ruining one thing while hurrying to “strike while the iron is hot” with another. We run hither and yon, taking one task out to work on, plunging another into the fire, and not doing any of them as well as we had planned to.
When I find myself in this situation, I have learned I simply must stop and ask God which irons need to be removed from the fire to save for another day – or eliminated altogether. In Mark 4:19 Jesus warns us that the cares of this world can choke the Word that has been planted and is trying to grow in our heart. Too many projects and activities, no matter how good they may be, will stunt our spiritual growth.
God tells us to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). If we don’t have time to do this, we have too many irons in the fire. I want to be like Jesus, who “has done all things well” (Mark 7:37).