But for the flames

Father God,

There seems to be a refrain playing over and over again no matter where I go or what I do. “Give thanks,” it says, “for that which refines you, for that which makes you as pure as fired gold.”

Daddy, for years, I’ve asked to be refined, asked to be made like You, asked to reflect Your image. I’m not sure that I actually could have prayed those words with sincerity if I had known the price, known the cost, known the pain. As a good friend reminded me last night, fire is hot and refining fire burns. It leaves ashes behind.

Yet, I’ve been promised “beauty for ashes.”

           Beauty after ashes.

                                  Beauty after fire.

Although I had assumed that the ashes were the result of hard times in our lives, I hadn’t realized that You allowed the ashes, You lit the fire, You stood with me in the flames. You sifted my searing heart and exposed my selfishness, pride, distrust, stubbornness, and fear. In Your gentle whisper, You called me to the high places of Your Kingdom, the high places of Your love. But, You made it clear that my selfishness and pride couldn’t come. My distrust and stubbornness couldn’t make the journey. My fear would forever hide in my heart and cripple my feet from following You.

            But for the fire . . .

                            But for the flames . . .

Blackened ROCK holds firm beneath my trembling feet.

The words of a birthday card last night compelled me to open my Bible to Job 23. Now, the verses play over and over, adding to the refrain.

1Then Job answered and said:

2“Even today my complaint is bitter; My hand is listless because of my groaning. 3Oh, that I knew where I might find Him, That I might come to His seat! 4I would present mycase before Him, And fill my mouth with arguments. 5I would know the words which He would answer me, And understand what He would say to me. 6Would He contend with me in His great power? No! But He would take note of me.

How many days has that been my attitude, that been my cry? Where are you God that I might reason with You, accuse You of injustice, stand in defense of my own rights? If I can’t change the Holy One, then at least hear me out!

7There the upright could reason with Him, And I would be delivered forever from my Judge. 8“Look, I go forward, but He is not there, And backward, but I cannot perceive Him; 9When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him; When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him. 10But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.

When He has tested me, tried me, allowed trouble to have its perfect work in me . . . I will emerge from the flames, emerge as gold.

14For He performs what is appointed for me, And many such things are with Him. 15Therefore I am terrified at His presence; When I consider this,I am afraid of Him. 16 For God made my heart weak, And the Almighty terrifies me; 17Because I was not cut off from the presence of darkness, And He did not hide deep darkness from my face.”

He did not hide deep darkness from my face. The shadow of the Almighty allowed the presence of darkness. The only light was in the flames, ascending in the heat and the smoke.

Lord, You are my hiding place, my refuge. Even though the flames be hot and the darkness be thick, You are calling me to the high places, calling me to the land where only Love lives.


*”Burning Man” blue and yellow image copyright 2011 by Meghan Smith. All rights reserved. See http://www.theyellowroomart.com/013.php for more on this piece of artwork, as well as others by Smith.

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