‘Blown Away’ Is a Character Parable – Rusty McKie

Netflix’s Blown Away hooked me immediately. Who knew a Canadian glass-blowing reality competition show could be so compelling? 

The show engrosses because the stakes are high. You’re on the edge of your seat watching the formation of these fragile creations, knowing—as the glassblowers often say—that “glass breaks.” Each episode culminates in a satisfying experience, moving us from anxiety about the creative steps to awe for the art. Beauty is compelling.

Several contestants say how new and unskilled they are in glassblowing; moments later, we learn they’ve been at it for more than a decade. As with many art forms, artists expect a lifetime of practice to master their craft (see the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi). 

And if this is true for an artistic skill, how much more for our spiritual lives? Christians can sometimes believe in the myth of microwaved spiritual growth and character formation, but Blown Away reminds us that beautiful character—like a fragile glass sculpture shaped by decades of practice—requires endurance, patience, and humility. 

Enduring the Hot Shop

In theory, becoming an exceptional glassblower is simple:

  • Someone teaches you the skills.
  • You practice what you’ve learned.
  • You reduce bad habits and increase discipline through repetition. 

Easy, right? Not so much.

Glassblowers call their workspace a “hot shop” because, well, it requires lots of fire. Contestants regularly describe the physical toll glassblowing exacts on their bodies. Becoming the artists they desire takes grit and endurance.

It’s the same for us. If we desire the character of Christ, we must endure the hot shop of trials and suffering. This is why Paul tells us in Romans 5:3–5 to “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame.” Character formation also requires the slow-going commitment to spiritual disciplines. Individual and corporate prayer, study of God’s Word, and worship create Spirit-led muscle memory. Decades in these practices help shift us away from natural, sinful inclinations toward Spirit-inspired acts of righteousness (Rom. 6:11–13, 19).

Formation into the image of Christ is often imperceptible. We need patience.

Patience and Discipleship

While Blown Away is a competition, you don’t have the impression that younger glassblowers think they’re better than those with 30-plus years of experience. Yet they’re confident that they’ll improve. 

Their patience allows them to become the expert artisans they desire.

Patience is also crucial in Christian discipleship. Impatience and unrealistic expectations can undermine our pursuit of Christlikeness. As Eugene Peterson’s acclaimed book described it, borrowing from Friedrich Nietzsche, Christian life is a “long obedience in the same direction.”

Patience is crucial in Christian discipleship. Impatience and unrealistic expectations can undermine our pursuit of Christlikeness.

Too many of us want what we want now. Single people can be impatient for singleness to end and might be prone to rush into an unwise relationship. Impatience with a frustrating or low-paying job can lead someone to switch careers rashly, without considering other factors.

Ministry leaders aren’t exempt from temptations of impatience. We may be impatient in our desire to publish a book, plant a church, catalyze a movement, or reach someone with the gospel. And yet impatience can sometimes tempt us to move faster than we should.

God’s ways are not our ways (Isa. 55:8–9). He is patient (2 Pet. 3:9), and patience should be a mark of his people (Gal. 5:22; Col. 3:12).

Humble Teachability

My wife and I found ourselves rooting against arrogant contestants with 30-plus years of experience. They create technically beautiful art, but their cockiness makes them unlikeable. The genuinely awe-inspiring artists are those with loads of experience and humility. They see their skill correctly while always acknowledging their need to grow.

Our information age often short-circuits the wisdom of humility. We read a few articles and declare ourselves experts. But while the internet amplifies pride and deceives us into believing in our assumed expertise, Christ forms the wisdom of humility in us. He trains us in a teachable way that is quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to angry judgment (James 1:19–20).

Wise disciples see that the more we learn, the more our lives don’t match his teaching. The more we become like him, the more we long to become like him. 

Fragile Like Glass

Character is fragile. It takes a lifetime to build and seconds to break.

We need to hear that we’re responsible for training ourselves in godliness for our temporary and eternal good (1 Tim. 4:7–8), yet we also need to know what happens when the life we’ve built shatters.

If your character shines for the world to see or shatters into a million pieces, God’s grace is behind, before, and beside you (Matt. 5:15–16; Rom. 5:20–21; Ps. 139:5). Like the glassblowers in Blown Away, if the glass of our life breaks, it isn’t the end of our story. By God’s grace, we learn and grow stronger because of these mistakes.

Character is fragile. It takes a lifetime to build and seconds to break.

Maybe you’re reading this and your life wasn’t damaged by personal failure but by someone you trusted. God’s grace can also heal the deep cuts from the blast radius of another’s character implosion. Grace should encourage us all—Jesus puts the pieces of our lives back together after our moral failures (1 Cor. 15:8–10). Grace sobers us—God’s kindness should lead us to repent early and often, knowing our sin hurts those in our realm of influence and that judgment will start in the household of God (Rom. 2:4; 1 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet. 4:17). 

Should we strive for a beautiful character that reflects the beauty of Christ? Absolutely! But let’s never forget that God’s grace sustains, supports, and is sufficient for us, whether our lives shine luminously or break like glass (James 3:2; 2 Cor. 12:9).

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