When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
Awhile ago, my sister compiled a family history, which included a list of more than a few times when we’ve come through the flames. From my grandfather, found badly hurt on his driveway after a household fire, to my father whose hair never grew back to its original wave after a bakery oven explosion, to my uncle who set fire to his kitchen frying croquettes in oil one Christmas Eve, to my son who ended up looking like a scorched comic character after attempting to light his ancient gas furnace. Amazingly, miraculously, each one survived these encounters.
These are only a few examples, and only the outer incidents. There are times in my life when the anger has raged hot in my life as well, threatening to set ablaze everything in its path. And, like a forest fire, it seems to leave only devastation in its wake. a charred landscape. No one likes to feel this way, and it’s physically very hard on a body. But anger does have its place.
Fire has an aspect of purification, of burning away much of the chaff, of sending anything that doesn’t belong to the surface to be skimmed away. Sometimes the anger is a necessary precursor, a gathering of energy to fight injustice, to provide impetus for action. The trick is to keep it from getting out of control.
In the Old Testament story, Daniel’s three friends survived the fiery furnace because they were not alone. There was someone with them, “like the son of the gods.” When life’s searing experiences seem to destroy everything you hold dear, it’s time to hold on to that thought. In nature, everything is part of a life cycle, and God, nature’s Creator, does not waste anything either. As we trust in His allowing of these experiences, we come to sense His reassuring presence, to trust that He will set things right someday.
One of the gifts of living a long life is the opportunity to look back and see how what was truly valuable came to light in times of testing and trial. To realize who was a faithful friend, to realize that people matter far more than objects and status and pride.
Months after a blaze, new growth appears on the forest floor, rising Phoenix-like out of the ashes. The old has been scorched away, and light can reach the tender young saplings that are sending down roots in the now enriched soil. And so a new landscape emerges, a new celebration of life.
“What is to give light must endure burning.” Viktor Frankl