Nestled against the treeline just west of the main street of Jamestown Movie Set, the Blacksmith’s shop creates an intriguing backdrop for the interactions of the characters in Hope Valley. At one time, the blacksmith’s shop would have been the center of activity in a town like Hope Valley, but over the centuries, the role of the smithy in frontier towns evolved. Originally a hub of town interactions, the shops became less central as modern factories began producing tools, materials, and equipment at a faster and less-expensive rate. One aspect of the smithy’s job didn’t change. In a very simplified explanation, the work-worn, muscular arms of the blacksmith carefully held a piece of rough iron with a set of tongs, placing the iron into an intense flame, only to remove it and pound on it with any number of hammers. Then, after tempering it with water, the smith returns the iron to the fire to chip away at another area of his creation. In repeating this pattern over and over, switching tools as the piece takes shape, the smith sculpts whatever he needs out of a plain, rough-hewn piece of iron. While this process is sweaty, grueling work, each blow of the hammer is essential in creating the finished product. As we anticipate the opening of season 5 of When Calls the Heart, my thoughts return to this process and all the little blacksmith shop symbolizes.
While the cast of When Calls the Heart does not include an actual blacksmith, over the course of four seasons, each character has been called into the role of smithy – not to shape a simple piece of metal but to shape a friend’s complicated character. Just as the Bible reminds us in Proverbs that “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another,” the characters in Hope Valley sharpen each other.
Early in season 1, Jack approached Abigail for advice on handling a situation with Elizabeth. In an effort to guide Jack, she explained honestly that “one day, there will be an appropriate man, a good man, who will approach Elizabeth with honorable intentions,” and she very clearly suggested that Jack “approach her not as a Constable who’s there to rescue her, but as a man.” Instead of simply assuaging his fears and concerns, she encouraged Jack with the truth about his own character, spoken in love. Later, Jack uses his own wisdom to speak truth into the life of an injured man on the verge of abandoning his family when he says, “You still have purpose and the Almighty can bless the work of your hands.”
There are instances of one character hammering away at another character’s attitude, ego, or perspective throughout the seasons that Hearties have been a part of the Hope Valley family. In season 2, Pastor Frank reminds Henry Gowen that “A community is stronger when we look out for each other.” Then, in season 4, Elizabeth reminds her students of this truth when she reviews a Civics lesson and asks them to recall the aphorism “Bad things happen when good people do nothing.” This sharpening of each other is one of the foundational characteristics that make Hope Valley the idyllic community it is, but what does this look like in the real world we live in?
In actuality, it is often very difficult to both encourage with wisdom and rebuke in love, but these actions are necessary in refining our spirits to be Christ-like. While in the midst of a heated moment in our lives, we need wise counselors we can approach who will pull us from the flame, hammer and chip at our wounds to shape them while tempering their words with encouragement. A friend who simply hammers away at us becomes a “resounding gong or clanging cymbal” because they are not also demonstrating their true love for us by encouraging us in our faith.
I’ve had friends who felt it their “duty” to tell me all I did wrong, but this left me feeling inadequate, unloved, and – at times – a failure. I’ve had other people in my life whose words were always kind but who never held me accountable for my shortcomings. Then there are those precious individuals who have been so sharpened by others that they influenced me.
I remember the day I knew my husband had come into my life. We sat at a dusty metal table in front of the local coffee shop. My mouth was a bit dry because we had been sharing deeply for almost an hour. As I told a story involving some of my other friends, he looked me directly in the eyes and spoke to my soul. I was, simultaneously, convicted of my own sinful nature and encouraged by how he knew exactly the words I needed in that moment. This man before me was not afraid to help shape me into the woman God desired me to be.
Who are these people in your life? Who are the irons, the one or two people who can pull you from the burning wreckage of a decision and hammer away at you without damaging your precious soul? We all need these people in our lives – whether they are dear and close friends or Christ-followers we have never met who teach us through their writing, their song, or their story. Remember, “wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Proverbs 24:6)