Thursday, January 14, 2010

Life After the Fire

When I worked at Northwest Trek, we used to talk about a huge forest fire that moved through the area back in the 1920s.  This fire consumed hundreds of thousands of acres.  We also used to talk about how sometimes fires were a good thing.

When a forest has gotten too overgrown, a series of smaller fires can help eliminate some of the extra growth, preventing a larger and more destructive fire.  Sometimes a fire will create an opening in the canopy of the forest, allowing plants that are not able to survive in the shade to grow, and thus attract new animals.  There are also some plants who are dependent on periodic fires, as the heat from those fires causes them to germinate.  There is a lot of life birthed after a fire.

I wrote a few months ago about seasons of transition and seasons of the crucible.  Many times the Lord uses seasons of transition as trials for our refining.  Often transitions and trials are one and the same. Frequently transition seasons are painful.  At the very least they are awkward, annoying, and uncomfortable.  They can be the "fire" of trial in our own lives, refining, purifying and at the same time leading to new life.

Painful transition seasons can happen with almost every circumstance in life: jobs, relationships, living situations, churches, health etc.  Many people, myself included, don't handle transition seasons very well.  We do everything possible to dull the pain and ache of these seasons and put out their fire.

How quickly we forget that the Lord has LIFE ABUNDANT for us!  We forget that we are loved and highly favored!  We forget that the Lord has plans for us that are full of HOPE!  No transition season is EVER going to last forever...we are living without an eternal perspective if we believe that.  Our inheritance, as believers, is HEAVEN!

Just like a woman in labor who cries out for drugs to ease her through transition labor, we do the same in our own seasons of transition.  We live forgetting that this life is temporary.  Even if we are never healed, our spouse never changes, our jobs never get better, our hope is in eternity.  Our "drugs," of course, are not always real drugs (though sometimes, for some people, they are), but their affect is the same; they help us numb the pain.  Rather than face the pain of going through a season of change in our lives, we quickly lose site of our redeemed selves and can revert back to some pretty unrestrained responses.  These behaviors that we employ to get us through hard and stressful seasons and can include complaining to anyone and everyone who will listen, blaming others, anger, or just flat-out giving up.

Can't you just picture the woman in labor and the myriad of emotions and feelings she feels as her body prepares to give birth?  I am pretty sure most women, if given the chance, would gladly accept a labor naturally free from pain and discomfort (since they certainly can't quit at that point).  Wouldn't it be nice if *all* of our seasons of change could be comfortable and easy?  But, they are not and I believe they are purposefully designed that way.

Yet every woman I have ever talked to who has gone through labor naturally, even with the intense pain and discomfort involved, has told me that given the opportunity they would go through natural labor in a heartbeat all over again.  There is something indescribable and almost other-worldly about the labor experience for these women that women who chose drugs do not have.

In our current secular humanistic culture we are told the same message over and over: "Life is all about you, and if it doesn't make you happy you should just quit/give up/move/leave."  This is our society's "drug" of choice for these seasons.  The second our job/relationship/church gets hard/painful/awkward/uncomfortable, we can't handle it and we leave.  I have watched this time and time again.  I don't believe that we should stay in every situation no matter what, but we are so addicted to our need for life to be comfortable and happy that we have swung in the opposite direction and we shun pain at all cost.  We have lost the ability to stay committed and to see things through to the other side of change.  Look at our divorce rate.  Look at how often people quit jobs, change churches, or dump friends!

Even Jesus' very disciples did this.  Here was their leader, their rabbi, the man they knew to be the Messiah hanging on a cross, dead.  What was their response?  They ran!  They ran back to their old patterns, their old way of life (literally Jesus found many of them after His resurrection out on their fishing boats doing what they had done for a living before following Jesus).  Jesus himself had to search them out.  Not one of them stuck around anticipating the prophecy of His resurrection being fulfilled.  They couldn't even last three days before they gave up and quit.  The second it appeared that all had been lost, they split!  Most of them didn't even stay to watch the crucifixion and were gone before it had even started.

Imagine what these disciples could have gained had they just hung on for a couple of days. I believe it was completely the Lord's plan for them to run and to be found by Him again (and for us to understand that even Jesus himself knew what rejection and complete abandonment felt like), but just imagine what COULD have been for those men and women who followed Jesus to stand in the face of the storm and say, "Despite circumstances, despite the way it looks right now, I BELIEVE!"  They COULD have been there to witness the most life-changing event in history!

I believe the same principal applies to every "labor" that leads to something new, to every transition season.  There is something intangible gained in our character, in our spirit, and in our hearts that we can only gain by seeing something through to its completion rather than running away at the first sign of hardship. 

I know for myself, these last few years of transition, as painful and hard as they have been, have planted something within me that could not have been there otherwise.  I have seen things through the bleakest of times and into signs of new life.  And, just like a woman who has felt every pain of her labor, I would go through the fire all over again to see the new life birthed out of this season.


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