Out of the Ashes

Spring is here in Pennsylvania, not only because the date on the calendar has passed, but the weather has increasingly warmed up to the idea of letting go of winter’s cold grip. In celebration, my husband and I talked about roasting some s’mores in our own little hand-made, bricked-in fire pit.

Earlier this week, my husband and I sat with two of our friends watching the wood crackle and sputter in response to the flames licking its bark. We were ready to begin the ceremonious snapping of graham crackers in half, layering them with chocolate and squashing a jumbo marshmallow in between the two to produce the ultimate s’more.

I watched as each of us pursued different methods to build our s’mores. I broke the cracker first and layered the chocolate next and concluded by squashing in my oozing marshmallow. My husband broke his piece of chocolate off the bar first and proceeded with the cracker. While one of our best friends decidedly reached for a marshmallow to start his process of creating the perfect “golden halo.”

It seems ridiculous to think that making s’mores causes me to think about life and how we all desire to get to the end product, to move forward or on, to have that job well-done, to be finished, to enjoy what’s been done. But I realized that it isn’t so much ridiculous as it was necessary. It was a simple joy that cultivated a huge lesson.

Hours before this momentous occasion, I had completely lost it. It was 70 degrees outside and I was sitting on the porch with my husband blubbering because we had found out that the company he had been looking forward to getting a job offer from emailed that afternoon informing him that they hired someone else.

Disappointments happen. I get that. But for the last five months, concerning the job search, each week seemed to hold one more nugget of disappointment. We pray each night for a job. Whether that prayer is uttered together or separately, each of us has been taking time to seek, ask, and knock as the Lord has commanded (Matthew 7:7-8).

As I cried in my husband’s arms last night, I started to feel hope breaking. It felt like the prayers weren’t enough. It felt like He wasn’t listening. It felt like I was going to be crushed under the weight of this disappointment. Not remembering that His thoughts are certainly not my thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).

So after successfully forming a wet circle on the sleeve of his shirt, I wiped my eyes and resolved that I was done praying for his job because I was tired of the hope that each call from potential employers brought. While simultaneously in my mind rehearsing, you know who God is and who He says He is. This is season is but for a moment when looking forward to eternity.

But was I thinking about it being a season (Ecclesiastes 3:1)? No. Was I seeking to ponder the truth that discipline is painful, but produces righteousness for those who are trained by it (Hebrews 12:11)? Nope. I was thinking about the longevity of the testing that I was going through. I was aware of my weariness and fading strength, but that didn’t stop me from calling it quits.

And that is when our s’mores night happened.

Right before I headed to the store to grab the essentials, I sat down and looked at my Bible. My flesh and spirit were at war with one another. The flesh reviled the Word, cast off by the pride that said it wasn’t worth the time or the struggle, but the Spirit kept coaxing that it would bring life, it would bring refreshment to my wearied soul, it would remind me that I am in the hands of an Almighty Father.

I thank the Lord the Spirit squashed the temptations of the flesh.

I flipped to the book of Psalm which has many times these last five months been the only words that seemed fitting to read and offer to the Lord in prayer. As I started thumbing through the various chapters in the Psalms I came across section 143 and stopped. The title captured what I so desperately felt. My Soul Thirsts for You. The first five words of the chapter instantaneously brought tears to my eyes. “Hear my prayer, O Lord.”

That has been the cry of my heart for months. With each call from employers and the “no’s” that seemingly continued to follow, it was as if my begging for the Lord to hear my prayer was left unanswered and disregarded. All I wanted was the Lord to hear my prayer.

David, the author of this particular Psalm, continues with several phrases throughout the chapter that reflected all of my thoughts and feelings:

“Give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!”

“Answer me quickly, O Lord! My spirit fails!”

“Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love; for in you I trust.”

“Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground.”

What started to appear as I read was the idea that I was praying for Him to hear, but not for willingness to trust that in His faithfulness and righteousness He would answer me according to what His will had for me, for us.

And I came face to face with the overwhelming shame that I was disregarding Him and His power to bring about whatever would give Him the most glory, which as His child I am commanded to commit my life to (I Corinthians 10:31). And at the present time, according to His precious promise, He is working out all things for my good, which must and will result ultimately for His glory (Romans 8:28).

Fast forward and we are back sitting at the camp fire and as I prep my first s’more I recall Psalm 143. Carefully holding my stick pierced through an innocent marshmallow, I watched the fire flicker across the wood as ash started to form. I began to understand that discipline, the tested genuineness of our faith, often comes through the act of a “holy fire” consuming the most unholy parts of us to refine us to a place where it results in the praise and glory of God (I Peter 1:7).

Instead of dreading the fire, instead of wishing for the period of trial to end, instead of clinging to the feelings closely tied to the disappointments in my heart I must humbly plea that God would make known to me the way I should go, and that requires me to continue lifting up my soul even when the answer at times is painful or seems to go unanswered. It is me surrendering and being willing to trust that His words prove true every single time despite the circumstances that surround me.

As one author put it, “No man knows how he will behave in any severe trial until its over. We are wholly dependent on God for constancy of mind.” 

So while we wait, as the fire melts the wood into ashes of what I thought were the necessary parts of me, I hold fast to what is good. I cling to the steadfast love of the Lord when the situation doesn’t seem to make sense. I endure through the trials praying to be wholly dependent on God for constancy of mind. Because He who calls me is faithful to complete and do all that He has planned for me according to His good pleasure.

So the lesson I found in s’more making didn’t actually seem all that ridiculous after all. Rather from the ashes, a new life was born.

 

 

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