This morning I woke to a loud CRASH and I knew in my heart that they were beginning to tear down my neighbor’s house. Though it had recently burned in a fire and I was disturbed by seeing the burnt frame against the sky every time I drove by, it was still emotional for me to realize it was being torn down. We shared a lot of fun times in that house with wonderful friends. Thankfully only property was lost in the fire. All the souls who lived there made it out safely.
Now the house is gone. In less than a day, it has been removed down to the foundation, and I have a clear view of the marsh and horizon beyond. The trees are the tallest objects on the property now, and they look strangely out of place without the structure they used to frame.
It’s time to build anew.
As I was walking through the restored prairie land at the UW Field Station on my hike today, I observed the rolling fields that had been burned last weekend. Usually I participate in the annual burn, but this was a holiday weekend and I was unable to fulfill my job as a “flapper” and help put out fires that strayed beyond the burn zone.
As I walked downwind of the fields, that familiar burnt smell reached my nose. It smelled like the day my neighbor’s house burned down. And the way I smelled as I went to church that morning after stopping to help in the only way I could, by carrying out some houseplants from an area of the house that hadn’t burned.
I pushed these thoughts out of my mind and tried to find peace amidst the blackened hillsides and the towering burr oaks. I thought of how necessary the annual burn is for the prairie, to control the tall grass plantings and prevent undesirable species from growing.
I marveled at the tall oaks, unaffected by years of burning the grasslands at their feet. And I thought about the refiner’s fire. You know, the intense heat used to remove impurities from metals so that they can be used in their purest forms.
Could trials of our lives qualify as a refiner’s fire? Does our inner spirit, through facing challenges and setbacks, refine and become more pure in oneness and connectedness to life?
We face challenges every single day. If we make choices that improve our view of our place in this world, and our view of ourselves, then I would say that we are indeed being refined by our choices.
When we face those really tough times that burn us down to our core yet somehow we make it through; when we endure those times when we feel like our spirit cannot bear the weight of our troubles, yet we survive, we emerge as a new creation. Slowly, trial by unending trial, we are formed and shaped into the person we are becoming.
How we view the difficulties of our lives helps shape how they will form us. Certainly, there will always be trouble in this life.
We could take a lesson from the mighty oaks of the field, and learn to bend and not break when the storms of life blow through. We will become more resilient with each passing season, and as we make choices that build our inner strength, we grow closer to the person we are becoming.
It is humanly possible that we might not respond to a situation in the best possible way every time. But hopefully we deal with our trials in a way that is forgiving to ourselves and nurtures our spirit.
Sometimes it takes the perspective of time to see what we have learned. It may not be until sometime after your ordeal that you begin to understand how you have grown and changed as a result of what you have gone through.
Be patient and open to learning more about yourself. Be aware that God is walking through the fire with you, and be receptive to His guidance. We constantly have the opportunity be be refined as we pass through the challenges that affect us. We can be changed in ways that lead to a better understanding of ourselves and our place in this world.
This song has been playing through my head all day as I've been writing this.
Shawn McDonald sings "Rise".
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