Iron Sharpens Iron

Five Rings

As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.
Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)

“Iron sharpens iron” can be the productive work of a file in the hands of a jeweler, or it can be the destructive work of two swords clashing, producing only sparks and damaged blades.

There is a signal that Vicki can give me when necessary – and it’s likely that she could do it right in front of you and you’d totally not catch it.

(And no, it’s not a swift kick under the table. You’ve watched too many old comedies.)

The signal is to let me know that I might be getting too excited, or too “into” something, and might be allowing my emotional balance to slip. It’s not a slap, not a “Stop it!” or even a “Dude – dial it back!” It’s simply a gentle encouragement to be aware, to assess, and to dial it back if I find that the balance is indeed off.

How do I know that’s exactly what it means? Or that she’s not saying something more forceful when she gives me The Signal?

Because we decided what the signal means when I gave her permission to assist me in that way.

(And don’t confuse The Signal with The Look – bane of all husbands everywhere, capable of burning one right through their eye sockets all the way down to their shoes.


There’s another signal that I share with those that I trust and love, again giving them permission to assist me.

When and if I see The Signal, from those few I have trusted with it, I know that my response must be one of gratitude, as I take stock of my emotions and regain control.

And it takes a lot of love and trust to open yourself up that way, so that your reaction to even subtle correction isn’t like a spoiled, tired toddler in the cereal aisle. 


Yeah. That.

As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.
Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)

There is something I notice here right away – It’s not just any random person who gets to come along and start scraping along on me – it’s a friend. 

In the over 4 years now since my surgery and my ReBirth, the support of so many people has meant more to us than we could ever express. The way they’ve joined us in giving praise to God for this amazing gift has carried us through all the tough stuff and straight into absolute gratitude. Their enthusiasm, care, concern, questions, astonishment and open-handed support have kept us on this new path with great joy.

– But –

With the best intentions, some folks turn into the Plate Police.

They don’t mean to, I’m sure – they’re excited about my new life, and they want to see me live into this and not go back. And they’ve probably either heard the stories or known someone who had “the surgery,” and then regained all the weight or ended up heavier than they were before the surgery, and are now sicker than they ever were before. So, because they know or have heard of those people, they intensely want to make sure their friend Calbert doesn’t end up that way.

Enter the Plate Police.

And I enter the goldfish bowl – my intake, my existence, my choices become open to public scrutiny.

And that’s hard to live with.

They do this with the best intentions, usually quietly, simply observing, but sometimes asking piercing little questions. (“Can you really eat that?” “Isn’t that going to make you sick?” “I thought fat was bad for you… that really doesn’t hurt you?”) It’s all intended to help, to remind me to stick to what I’m doing, but the problem is they haven’t been given the green light to help in that way.

Those stories they know about others that have had “the surgery?” It could be one of a number of procedures – and each one has a different maintenance plan. What I’m eating at any moment? It’s all a matter of the balance for the whole day, not just one meal. Quantity? It depends on what I’ve eaten so far that day, how far off or behind I am on my protein balance, and what I’m doing after the meal I’m eating – sometimes I overload on protein because it’s going to be a long time before I can take more in, and this will help me get through.

And yes, there are procedures where one must live a low or non-fat diet for the rest of their life. But that’s not the case for a DS patient – in fact, I have to have a certain amount of fat to keep my system functioning correctly. I have to practice moderation, just as everyone does, but a little handy fact helps: Of the fat I take in, about 80% of it passes straight through.

Yes, that does tick off some of my fellow surgery patients who have to live non-fat for the rest of their lives. It also ticks off some of the “non-altered” humans who know me. 

Let me state one more time how much I appreciate the support from friends and family. Vicki and I can’t thank you enough.

But sometimes the only way iron can sharpen iron is when it’s in the hands of a close friend. A friend whose been given “permission” to wield the file, polish the metal, and help to refine who and what I am. 

So saddlepals, consider this:

To be given permission to speak into someone’s life, to help them see their blind spots or to challenge them in their walk is a gift – a gift that comes with great responsibility, that isn’t given lightly, and that is earned way, way before it’s given.

It’s the result of walking together deeply, intimately, and with great love. It’s a byproduct of loving one another, not a perk of being a Jesus follower. And it’s not lightly given. To open yourself to that kind of input from someone else takes a lot of trust, knowing that their heart is one of love.

And it’s usually a two-way street, knowing that as they speak into your life, they trust you to speak into theirs. After all…

As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.
Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *