ďWell, will you look at that!Ē
The words slipped out before I stopped to consider the fact that the only other person in the car was my 16 year old daughter, Kylie, and she was otherwise occupied with driving at the time.
Considering that we were travelling down a busy Motorway and the driver had a grand total of 18 hours experience under her belt, my preference would really have been for her to keep her eyes on the road. Still, she took a quick glance out the passenger window as I explained, ďItís amazing what a difference a few weeks can make isnít it?Ē
Less than a month before, that same strip of land had been left a charred and apparently lifeless piece of ground following the Christmas/New Year fires that had swept across New South Wales. Yet in such a short space of time it had been transformed into what looked more like a display of emeralds sparkling on a background of black velvet.
Once again, life had overcome even the most devastating of circumstances and the indomitable cycle of existence had continued in spite of disaster. The scene left me with an overwhelming sense of wonder and thanksgiving to our awesome Creator.
A few days later we saw the same scene repeated, as was no doubt happening all across our State. On a trip home from our favourite needlecraft shop, we passed the area that had received the greatest damage in our local community. It was the place where the Christmas Day fires had come closest to home and again we could see that the beauty of new life was breaking through.
The evidence of the blaze was definitely still there, with charred fence posts and brown treetops telling the story of that day. However, the once-blackened hills were now covered with a growing carpet of fresh, green grass and the visual scars were healing over.
Not only was nature bouncing back with renewed life, but so too were the people. Perhaps the most encouraging sign of restoration was that of the Produce Store, which became the one business casualty in our local area when it burnt to the ground on Christmas night.
Within days, a sign had appeared at the front of their ruined property announcing that they would be open and providing a limited service again very soon. True to their word, they brought in deliveries of new stock, set up a temporary office and re-opened for business.
As we drove past the site and saw the hustle and bustle of trade taking place, I had to resist the urge to cheer. The owners really had just two choices following their loss. They could have either allowed the defeat to cause them to give up, or else use it to spur them on to greater things. They chose the latter and I can only believe the business will now go from strength to strength.
When we go through the fires of life, the same two options are open to us as well. We can either cede victory to the flames, or we can rise up from the ashes into our greater, God-given destiny. The decision is always ours to make.
A few short years ago I was fervently praying for God to refine my life; and I meant it most sincerely. Unfortunately, the problem was that I didn't quite realise what that refining would entail. So when God responded to my request and allowed me to go into the "furnace" for a season, I didnít realize straight away that this was actually the answer to my prayer.
I didnít enjoy my time in the fire and I donít imagine anyone ever does. Reflecting back on those 12 months I have to admit that it was probably one of the most emotionally painful times Iíve ever experienced. There is absolutely nothing pleasant about having the very deep and hidden issues of your life brought to the surface and exposed. Oh but what a difference it makes when our Refiner removes the dross!
Thereís no question that fire is destructive. Those who live in bush fire prone regions know all too well what a raging inferno can do to property, nature and life. Yet there are other aspects of it which are quite the opposite.
For one thing, fire can actually be used to seal a wound, as in cauterisation. So in that case itís actually an aid to the healing process.
Fire is also extremely useful in removing vermin and pests. In the cane fields of northern Australia, and no doubt in other parts of the world, the cane growers would always set fire to their fields just before harvesting the crop. This was done quite simply to get rid of the really nasty, venomous creatures that lurked in the thick vegetation, before the cane cutters started work.
Last of all, fire can generate new life. Here in Australia there are certain plants which rely on regular bush fires to release their seeds. These trees need the flames in order to propagate. In fact, the seed pods lie dormant until the arrival of the fire and only then begin to germinate.
There are probably many more positive aspects of fire, but remembering these three things alone will help us to remain strong when the flames of life start to leap around us.
Without healing that comes through the cauterisation of old, open wounds in our life, weíll continually find ourselves slowing down to tend to those painful things of the past.
Without Godís cleansing fire, all those old ways of thinking and acting will continue to contaminate our lives and influence the way we react to the circumstances that come our way.
Without renewal and regeneration, there can be very little progress or new growth.
However, even greater than the personal benefits that come from our time in the Refinerís fire, is the fact that one day our overcoming and tenacious faith will be rewarded. As the Apostle Peter wrote:
Not one of us can escape going through a time of fire at some point in our lives, but how we come through it largely depends on us.
As Kylie and I drove past the Produce Store, I couldnít help smiling at the sign they had at the front of the property. &nsp;With painted flames rising up as a border to the wording, they proclaimed for all to see that they were, once again, open for business.
What a lesson we can learn from their undefeated attitude!
So as we come through the flames of life, letís be quick to show the world that we too are open and more than ready to do Godís business!
Send Debbie an E-mail
Copyright © 2001-2003 Debbie Porter - Breath of Fresh Air. All rights reserved.