The Refiner's Fire

Published on 11 January 2024 at 16:34

I recently got a Fitbit. It was part of an employee wellness program, so I actually got it for free. Nice perk, right? I got it because since Covid I've become rather sedentary, and I want to make sure I at least get a good amount of steps in every day. I also got it to help monitor my sleep.

I am a horrible sleeper. I remember when I was young, I used to sleep quite well. Nine to ten hours a night, barely moving at all. Once I was out, I was OUT. But since motherhood, sleep has been a struggle. I usually need melatonin and an eye mask and a fan for white noise just for a chance at a good night's sleep. Even then, it doesn't always help.

These past five days or so, according to my Fitbit - and of course, my experience - I've been having very restless sleep with spikes of my heart rate and oxygen levels. I think I know the cause - or at least, part of the cause.

See, I’ve been having some weird dreams.

The same dream, really, and it keeps waking me up.

I should insert here that I'm a believer in dreams. I know the subconscious works stuff out in dreams and the brain sorts through all the daily input and so some of it is random. I don't think all dreams have a deep, spiritual meaning. But - if a dream is vivid enough that I remember it clearly in the morning, I tend to pay attention. I try to figure out what it means.

You might think I'm crazy, but I'm telling you - sometimes God has given me messages in my dreams. Sometimes they're for me, and sometimes they're for others.

Just last week I had a dream about a friend I haven't seen since before Covid. I texted her, told her about it, and it resonated with her - she said it was the message from God she had prayed for. One time, I dreamt about a former co-worker, and when I reached out to her, found out her brother had just died and she needed support. Another time, I dreamt a warning to a girl who was about to get married. I told her, she got married anyway, and divorced three years later. 

I've dreamt of Jesus before. That's a dream I keep to myself, but it was a great comfort at a time I needed it.

So, five nights in a row I've had this same, vivid dream. It took me all week to figure out what it means - or at least, what I think it means.

Here’s the dream: I’m standing behind a counter in a bar or a coffee shop, perhaps. There's daylight coming in from windows along the wall. There are lots of people standing at the bar and they’re all waiting for something to drink. Lined up on the wall are a series of plastic, clear bottles of colored liquid. I grab one and then another , but instead of unscrewing the tops to pour them out, I’m poking holes in the bottom of the bottles. Big holes. And instead of liquid coming out, sand is coming out and falling everywhere. It's over the counter and on the floor and on my shoes. It stresses me out because of the mess. Plus, the people are thirsty and depending on me for something to drink, and what I have is sand.

And then I wake up.

As I was puzzling the dream this morning in the light of day, I thought about how frequently in this blog I talk about how polluted our faith is. Instead of giving people living water, we are feeding them sand.

When I was in the Peace Corps, I lived in a tiny mountain town that didn’t have clean water. The water came out of the pipes extremely murky, pretty much brown. Not something anyone would want to drink, and if you did, it would make you sick.

What you were supposed to do was boil it. You put the water into a pot on the stove and boiled it long enough that any bacteria in the water which could make you sick would die.

But it wasn't over after the boiling. Then you had to turn the stove off and let it sit. Let it sit, not just because it was boiling hot, but because all the dirt and sand and grime in the water needed time to fall to the bottom of the pot. Once this separation had occurred, then the water on top was about as pure as you were going to get and that’s the water you drank. But you had to be careful when scooping out the water to drink. If you scooped too deep, all you would get is dirt.

I suppose, if you would have put that water in a plastic bottle instead of a pot, then the bottom of the bottle would’ve filled up with dirt and sand. And if you had poked a hole in it, that’s all that would’ve come out.

As I reflected on this, it made me think of two possible meanings.

First, I was reminded of the verses in the Bible that talk about God's refining fire. For example, Psalms 66:10, "For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver."

Silver comes from ore. The ore is melted in a hot fire in order to burn off any impurities and keep the pure ore, which is refined into the silver we know.

God puts us (or allows us) through the fire to refine us.

Certainly, all I have gone through over the past four years has been like a refiner's fire! Or, in the first analogy, like a boiling. I was brought to my boiling point! All to refine me. To sort out the impurities. Maybe God is telling me to let the sand fall to the bottom, so that I may have a pure message to give to others.

I think maybe it's a warning, too. How many times does God purify us from our impurities, only to have us stir them back up again? He's freed us from our addictions or our anger or the lusts of the flesh, but we choose them again. Paul wrote in Romans 6, "Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus." Through Jesus we are made clean.

Why would we want to pollute ourselves once more?

Something to ponder.

Second, I thought about how I frequently mention in this blog how polluted the Church is. How she's become polluted by politics and American ideologies and even patriarchal and toxic masculinity (more on that later). We have become obsessed with wars we were never meant to fight and establishing earthly kingdoms we were never called to establish. The water we are serving is murky, even brown. It's soiled.

People are thirsty, but they don’t want dirty water. They want water that’s been purified and cleaned. Water that’s been sifted.

Dirty water will not quench anyone’s thirst. And it’ll probably make them sick.

Are our churches making others sick? Sometimes.

Perhaps the Church needs to go through the refiner's fire. Be pushed past the boiling point.

We need to be purified.

As Jesus said, "Blessed are pure in heart, that they might see God."

I want to see God.

Don’t you?

Add comment


There are no comments yet.