I am going to admit to actually being nervous as it came time for me to turn the page in my journey with Amy Carmichael and discover what God wanted to convict me of this week. I’ve spent a week on the first one and feel sure I need a year. You see, God is very faithful whenever I ask Him to reveal things and by definition “refining fires” aren’t necessarily comfortable.
All of us around Austin have spent a lot of time this week thinking about fires. We have walked out of our back doors and breathed the smoke, we have watched relentlessly as they evacuated in our county to make sure that the high winds didn’t change something quickly and catch us off guard. We followed the fire burning a neighborhood in which we very seriously considered buying a house when we moved here. We heard of friends and acquaintances evacuated and then got an email in our homeschool group asking for help for a few families who have lost everything but the clothes on their backs. We even had the “what should we grab” conversation and decided to use this opportunity to talk to the kids about what was most important to us. Thousands of lives have been shockingly altered this week. It was interesting because as much as I have always been sentimental, when it came down to a more serious thought of fire I told John that I will get the kids and get out. That’s what I will do. The stuff can burn. All the sudden the things we have put effort, money, and energy into accumulating just seemed completely insignificant in the light of danger to our children. In our conversation about the value of our things, the kids would ask, “What about this, Mommy? Would this be important?” And John and I would just answer, “Replaceable.” Even pictures, keepsakes, and memories are nothing compared to LIFE. And there would be grief, mourning, sadness, hurt, horrific recovery, and tremendous loss, but as the fire victims say over and over when interviewed, what they are thinking about is not the excess that has burned but the importance of what remains.
And all of this came flooding back to me tonight as I sat down to write a completely different post about my Calvary challenge. The Lord said clearly, “This is your message,” just as He has done every day of this blog journey. As I found myself fearing the refining fire I realized He was showing me a picture. He allows the burning, the sometimes painful removal of the excess. My excess can be the “bad” in my life that I know needs removing or even the “good” that has been allowed into the throne of true importance. But He only burns away to reveal the LIFE left behind. To show what is of His Kingdom in my heart and what is only weighing me down to a life drowning in flesh or this world. Burns to free me of what I will hold onto, to remove from me what is impure and unclean in my heart. To melt me down to a core of Calvary Love. That is the purpose of His refining fires.
I’ve thought often this week of what it would have been to face these raging fires without the equipment we have today. When a pioneer family saw this coming, they didn’t even have the ability to jump in a car and outrun it. They were literally fighting to remove themselves from the situation, much less their livelihood. And one thing I remembered reading about them doing was burning a line between their home and the fire. This way when the fire reached their burn line it had nothing to burn and would hopefully not be able to reach their farm. And I know for certain that my Father has at times also sent these protecting fires to my heart to serve as “burn lines” so that the destruction headed to me if allowed to remain in my course would be headed off and would be unable to cross over to destroy me. For burning in the destruction of sin and pride and my own choices is a very different pain than the pure, clean, quickly-healing wounds of refining, and He stands ready to protect me from even at times what I deserve.
I heard a story of a man in another area who refused to leave his home during a mandatory evacuation, putting the firefighters there at work in tremendous danger if they were called on to rescue him. And in the times when I fail to heed my Lord and have to experience the pain of that destructive fire caused by my choices, how precious is His ministry of mercy and grace! Like the Red Cross or a firefighter illumined and glorified, He stands as Nurse or Rescuer, even when we have chosen our path of fire.
I feel overwhelmed with His faithfulness and suddenly very unafraid of His refining. How pure and just and full of love is every thing He requires of me. How new are His mercies each morning and how steadfast is His heart toward me. And it is good that He is because how convicting the words for this week are. Oh, Father, refine down to Calvary Love!
If I can easily discuss the shortcomings and the sins of any; if I can speak in a casual way even of a child’s misdoings, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I find myself half-carelessly taking lapses for granted, ‘Oh, that’s what they always do,’ ‘Oh, of course she talks like that, he acts like that,’ then I know nothing of Calvary love.