Wednesday, February 23, 2011
"The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests hearts."
Proverbs 17:3 (NASB)
I am supposed to be writing about the characteristics of God right now. However, it's just not what is in my heart this morning and if I have learned anything over these years of walking with Jesus, it is that I must follow what the Lord places on my heart. There is always a reason he put it there and always a reason for me to share it. Therefore, I digress.........
I took a drive into the local small town late yesterday afternoon. The weather here has been so nice of late. It has folks out into their yards and preparing for spring. Many were raking leaves and/or burning leaves. I have always hated this time of year. I don't like fire, haven't since I was a young person and arrived at my Maw McDonald's house on the school bus to find the rear of her house on fire. It was a tramatic event as those left on the bus piled off to try to fight the fire.
We lived in a very rural area and there was no fire department for many miles. Her only hope was that the kids on the bus could fight the fire and get it out. She didn't have an outdoor hydrant so the only way to get water to the fire was to hold a garden hose up to the kitchen sink faucet and run it out and around the house to the fire. The smoke was thick in the kitchen, but someone had to stay there to hold the hose. I was the someone appointed to do that job.
As others grabbed furniture and began emptying the house of Maw's possesions or helped fight the fire, I stood there holding the hose, coughing and becoming more and more light headed as the smoke thickened and breathing became more and more difficult. Finally, the fire was extinguished and the smoke began to clear. I was hot and soaked with my own sweat and the spewing water from the faucet. I was short of breath and black with the smoke residue.
Since that day, I have hated fire. Terry always wanted to rake and burn the leaves and burn off other areas around the yard every year about this time. I simply would not participate and wouldn't even be home when he did it. He finally gave up the practice completely because it caused me such angst.
As I drove yesterday, I remembered how I felt while standing in Maw's kitchen holding that hose and breathing all that smoke and feeling the heat of the flames only several feet from me. I was so uncomfortable, afraid and frantic. That's how I often feel when God is applying the refining fires of trials and testing to my life. How many times have I walked on through the flames of the refining fire with those emotions running wild within me? Too many to remember at one sitting.
Frantic for the trial to pass, afraid of what the outcome will be, feeling pressed to get on with it, as though the heat of some spiritual flame is licking at my mind. At times, almost in a panic with fear for how I should proceed or simply paralyzed by that same fear into just standing still and refusing to make a decision to move in any direction. Hearing the din of noise around me as people go on with the activities of their own lives while I feel as though my life is in limbo. Wondering when, or if, I will ever feel safe again.
Yes, those feelings are all too familiar to me. I'll bet you've experienced them as well, huh? Isn't it strange how we can profess such love and devotion for God while our little life is running so smoothly, yet at the first sign of a bump in our road, we panic and start to think of desertion? That's what I was thinking back in my Maw's kitchen. I was there and standing my ground, but every thought in my mind was directed at how I could escape my perdicament. My body was present, but my heart and mind surely were not.
Too many times in my walk with Jesus I have been in the same place spiritually. My body was there, but my heart and my mind surely were not. With every breath, I was contemplating how I might escape my perdicament. The harder I struggled against my confinement, the longer the struggle continued.
I argue with God....but God, this is NOT how it's supposed to be! I bargain with God....but God, I'll do this, this and this if you'll just do this! I beg God...but God, please; I've done my best to live right, to do right, to think right; please, please, please can't you just do this one thing for me?! When all else fails, I give God orders....ok God, I've just had enough of this now; I KNOW your word, you say this, this and this and I've done that, that, and that and NOW you're going to do this for me!
How arrogant can one become?! To think I have the right to pass out orders to the God of the Universe; to tell the God who created me what I am going to have and what He is going to do for me! My goodness, I'm surprised sometimes that God hasn't just struck me with a lightning bolt and ended my little tantrums! What a disrespectful and assuming child I am!
We are often told that we see God with relation to how we see our earthly father. Well, I can tell you one thing for sure, if I had acted with my earthly father the way I sometimes act with God, as Momma used to say, my pants wouldn't hold corn shucks! Daddy would have worn both me and my britches out! Yet, here is my Heavenly Father who looks down on me and knows me for who I am becoming, not who I am. He loves me for my childish efforts to love him and honors my effort.
So, he allows me my tantrums, lets me 'get it off my chest'; then, he fills my unthankful, unholy heart with so much love and forgiveness that I am consumed with sorrow for the way I have reacted. I am remorseful for my response to his effort to reach out to me with an opportunity to grow in his love and practice grace. Then, I understand that his refining fire is not a source of something to be feared, but the source of his outstretched arms of love to grow to be more like my Father. To slough off the debris of legalism, judgemental attitudes, envy, jealousy, anger, disdain, haughtiness, unfaithfulness...all the things which I allow to seep into my heart and become an obstruction to the flow of his love through me to those around me.
Then, he allows me to repent. What a love my Father has for me! No recriminations, no shaking his finger in my face, no yelling or accusing, just open arms that reach out to me with love and forgiveness. Arms eager to enfold me and draw me to himself, to encourage me and remind to walk away from myself and further into him.
There, in the safety of his arms, I know I have grown and he is pleased with me. He whispers his love to my heart, his spirit gently carresses my spirit and I know the next test will come. I also know I will struggle. But more than anything else, I know he will love through it and, at the end, he will once again wrap his arms around me and I will have grown more into him.
"Therefore my beloved brethren....be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; .....but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ...."
2 Peter 3: 14, 15, 18 (NASB)