The Purpose of Fire
Never cook on a gas range while wearing a bath robe.
Although I’m not much of a cook, now that I’ve had a nice gas range, I will never go back. It cooks fast, cleans up quickly, and, well, it’s just pretty. I’ve told many customers the same – and encouraged most to “definitely” go with gas. I never saw a downside until last week.
Part of our normal and hurried routine to get out of the house is for me to scramble eggs for the kids – in my bath robe of course – so they can eat while I finish getting ready. But unlike other mornings, this third day of no school due to the coronavirus quarantine, I let them sleep longer. Where my 11-year old is typically slow, cranky, and late to the table, she was actually standing right beside me. Thankfully.
As I sat the spatula down for a moment to pick up my phone, I heard my daughter say, in a fairly calm voice, “Mom, you’re on fire.” I’m sure I looked at her with a puzzled expression, and then looked down to see the droopy sleeve of my bath robe in flames. As I attempted to put it out, I realized there were other flames coming out of the robe – and they were multiplying! As I started patting out the flames (more like frantically swatting at them), she just watched and said, “Oh my gosh, mom” with the perfect pre-teen eye roll. And my youngest perked up from the couch and headed quickly to the front door.
After I extinguished myself, my daughter just laughed. And my 7-year old son said, “I saw the fire – and I was getting out of here!” It’s good to know that he was headed straight out of the house to save himself rather than offering any help! He then proceeded to tell me what he learned, and then explained in fully animated, time-consuming detail how to put out a fire if that ever happens to him. I’m so glad he learned something useful at my expense.
But the craziest part is that the instant the flames were out, thoughts from the last 12 hours of my life rushed in. I finished the eggs calmly and went into my closet to hide from the kids. As I sat in the floor to process these thoughts, I knew God was telling me something. You see, the last six months have been some of the hardest of my life. And every time I thought something might give – that I might catch a break – I would take another punch. And no matter what I did, or how hard I tried, I couldn’t fix any of it. It felt like I was standing on the precipice of collapse every day.
Rewind 12 hours from sitting in my closet floor in my scorched bath robe, to me sitting next to the fireplace with my journal in hand. Feelings of hopelessness and sadness started to take hold, and I wrote these words, “I saw relief on the horizon, but it never came. The fire just got hotter. I mustered hope again, but the fire only got hotter. When I thought ‘this must be the bottom, and things will get better now’, you turned up the heat again. Lord, please help me. I just can’t take any more!” As I laid down to sleep, a song I love came to mind, “Another in the Fire” by Hillsong. I played it over and over taking comfort in the line “There is another in the fire, standing next to me.” Reminding myself that I’m not alone.
Fast-forward to the next morning, as I did my Bible Study, I read these words, “…God often has to burn lessons into the depths of our being, using the fires of prolonged pain. ‘He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver’ (Mal. 3:3), yet he knows the specific amount of time that will be needed. Like a true goldsmith, God stops the fire the moment He sees His image in the glowing metal.” I was taken aback at the consistency of the message from the night before, and I knew right away that I needed to spend more time to understand more fully what God was saying. But in the normal life rush, I pushed it off until later.
And one hour later, what do you know – I was literally on fire. My daughter’s words have replayed in my head a hundred times, “Mom, you’re on fire.” She was right in so many ways.
The very next morning, I read these words from Lisa TerKeurst about Hannah in 1 Samuel, and it all made sense. “God hadn’t made Hannah wait to punish her. He hadn’t been callous or indifferent to her cries. And He’s not ignoring those of us waiting either. God loves us too much to answer our prayers at any other time than the right time.” Fire hurts, but it also refines. I’m thankful to be worth the refining. I know he’ll pull me out at just the right time. And like my son, oh the lessons I am learning.
I pray that in such difficult times for so many of us, that you will see this fire as a gift – an opportunity to burn off the shallow things of this world that we have been putting our trust in, and come out better on the other side.
“We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor. 4:8-9)
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)