It's good to be home.
To be away from my job (even though it is great), my classes (even though I am learning so much in them), my city (even though I have learned how to love it), and even my friends (even though they are wonderful). It is just good to be away from everything and to be at home, with my family and friends here, and to be refreshed by them and by this wonderful country air that I seem to love and appreciate even more now than ever.
To be refreshed and to reflect. That is what I have been doing. I have been reflecting on how difficult and wonderful this semester has been. Difficult in that it has been so challenging both mentally and spiritually. Wonderful in that, in the process, I am being refined by the Great Refiner into more of who He wants me to be.
This semester has been different. It has been more than I thought it would be and it has been less than I thought it would be. It has been filled with changing friendships, deepening friendships, weekends running away from everything with my roommate, learning how to write and preach an exegetical message for a women's class and being so stretched in this new challenge, meeting Nancy Leigh DeMoss and being reminded of how faithful my God is, being given a job that I could have never asked for, more homesickness than I have ever experienced, two bouts of sickness that left me in bed and even more homesick, being challenged in my faith and in my beliefs, being stripped of the legalism of my past, making decisions that caused my heart to battle so fiercely within that I have fallen to my knees in desperate prayer, crying through Psalms on the roof, waging war against the powerful assault of doubts from the Enemy, learning how to read God's Word with the deep realization that it is truly living and active, and falling more in love with my Savior as I get to know my rebellious and sinful state more and Him and His great grace and love better. Yes, this semester has been different. It has been more and it has been less than I thought it would be and it has been wonderful and it has been challenging.
Overall, it has been extremely refining.
The dictionary defines this word, "refine," as "remove impurities: to produce a purer form of something by removing the impurities from it, or become pure through such a process" or "make something more effective: to improve something through small changes that make it more effective or more subtle."
This is what the Lord has been doing in my life. He has been removing my impurities to produce a purer heart within so that I may be more effective for ministry to further His Kingdom. It is so painful to go through the Refiner's Fire. Some days, it is excruciating as I feel as though I am standing in the front lines of a full fledged battle and the Enemy's troops look so much fiercer and bigger and stronger than me. And then I remember the Armor of the Lord (Ephesians 6) that I wear and I remember the One who not only stands before me, but goes with me. I remember the promise of the outcome of this Fire and I sometimes whisper, sometimes scream, back to the Lord, "Let it be so!"
The outcome of this Refiner's Fire is purity. It is effectiveness. It is being purified, as with fire, of all of the things in my heart and life that are not of the Lord so that I can be more effective for His Kingdom. It is excruciatingly painful at times, this Refiner's Fire. Not only does this fire purify my heart of all of its impurities (which are so ugly and painful to look at and face in the light of the Fire), but it purifies my life of all of the actions, habits, relationships, and beliefs that are not of the Lord. Sometimes I scream out to the Lord to please give me a break from the Fire, to please allow me to "just be" for a moment.
And then I realize that what I am asking from Him is to be removed from His hand as He is guiding me through the Fire, so that I can sit in the scum of the world for a while. It would sure be easier that way - to be able to make my own choices based on my feelings and not on the Truth of His Word, to be able to live my life my own way and on my own time instead of His way and His time, to be able to compromise and live like the world for just a moment.
To get to the heart of the matter, I must ask the question: "Why?" Why don't I just remove myself from this Fire if it is this painful? Why don't I just live my life my own way, based on my feelings and not His Truth, if it would be so easier that way? The Lord asked me that question tonight. It stopped me in my tracks.
And then I felt Him whisper to my heart, "Would you trade knowing Me for this easier path?" Tears sprang to my eyes as I whispered back, "No. I would not trade knowing You for the world." This is why I choose to be thankful for the Refiner's Fire, for through it I am purified and made more effective for His Kingdom. This is why I can smile under the Potter's Hand, for it is under His hand that I am shaped into who He wants me to be. This is why I choose to live in relationship with Him and to live in light of His will, His plan, and His life for me. To whom shall I go? I know too much of His faithfulness, too much of His love, too much of Him to ever step foot outside of the Fire. Knowing Him is the great reward of this life. Getting to know Him better every day is the great joy of it.
In this Fire, the Lord is more real to me than He has ever been. His Word to me is more living and active than I have ever noticed it to be. He is more trustworthy and faithful than I have ever known Him to be. Therefore, I trust that He knows exactly what I need in each season of my life and, because of that, I have exactly what I need in this season.
Yes, this Refiner's Fire is painful. It is more challenging than I ever expected it to be. Why do I stay? A better question to ask is, To whom else shall I go? There is nothing and no One who compares to this One. And, therefore, I say with earnestness and desperation and tears, I would not trade this for the world.
"I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’”
All of life is meaningless if I am not His and He is not mine. Therefore, to the Fire and the Refiner behind it Who I trust and love with my life, I say: So be it. Purify me that I may be made more effective for Your Kingdom. It is the great reward of my life to know You and the great joy of my life to get to know You more.