There’s a song that keeps playing in my head, a song that’s good for the soul but murder on the flesh.
If the altar’s where You meet us
Take me there, take me there,
What You need is just an offering
It’s right here, my life is here
And I’ll be a living sacrifice for you. *
The first time I heard that song, I couldn’t bring myself to sing it. When it comes to words, I’m a literalist. Words mean a great deal to me. So when I heard the chorus, I only listened ~
I wanna be tried by fire
You take whatever You desire
Lord, here’s my life. *
I know what it is to be tried by fire. And I know how this works. As a follower of Christ, I’ve taken my own dreams and plans and laid them on the altar. Not because I’m a kind soul who only slips up every once in a while, but because as a head-strong college student hellbent on marrying my boyfriend and pursuing a career in law, I was locked in mortal combat with God. He wanted all of me, not just the part that goes to church on Sundays and tries to live a good life the rest of the week. He wanted everything. So I fought Him, like my life depended on it. Because it did. The life I wanted vs. the life He wanted for me.
When we think of a life fully surrendered to God, we’re tempted to think of a boring person, whose idea of fun is to hug a church pew every time the doors are opened. But that is simply ridiculous.
There is nothing churchy about a healthy newborn baby’s cry or the smell of a spring rain. There’s nothing religious about a sky washed in hues of purples and pinks that takes your breath away or falling for the love of your life. There’s nothing orthodox about feeling the sun on your face while out on the water or being hugged by a child tighter than a boa constrictor.
And yet these are the things that bring us joy. Jesus didn’t spend all His time in the temple. His first miracle was at a party, turning water to wine. He was so sociable that he was even accused of being a drunk.
So when you lay down what you want in exchange for what He wants for you, His is always better. The challenge, of course is the laying down part. It hurts. Like hell. And no matter how much we’ve laid down, there always seems to be more. We’re not simple human beings. We’re complex, with layers and pieces and hallways of doors in our hearts that need to be opened but we fight to keep closed because we don’t want to get hurt. We don’t want to risk abandonment or feel the sting of rejection again. So we keep those doors closed, and we miss out on so much. Of the good stuff.
Whether I can bring myself to sing that song or not, it’s clear that I’m being refined.
Labor Day weekend marked ten years of living with my parents as their caregiver. It isn’t the life I want. I don’t regret spending all this time with them, advocating for them or helping them. But for the time being, it’s what I’ve been called to.
I know there’s a lot of good that’s coming out of this. When a friend calls to tell me her father was just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I know exactly how she feels. I can listen with empathy because I’ve been there. I’m there right now. When someone struggles with the decision to put their loved one in a facility, I understand. When they try to balance a sleep-deprived existence with a compromised immune system and a paying job they need to keep, I get it.
So is it worth it to go through everything so I can help other caregivers? Yes, it is. Like my Father, I like to help people. But more importantly, when someone is at their breaking point, they need to be thrown a lifeline. I’ve been at my breaking point several times as a caregiver and each time I reached out to someone for help, someone who’d walked in my shoes and could give me seasoned advice, I would bet money on the fact that they had survived their own period of refinement to get them to the point where they could help someone. Someone like me. And you can’t put a price tag on that.
What about my dreams? All those things I want for myself? What I’ve learned is that my dreams aren’t big enough. God’s dreams for me are bigger. And better.
No matter what kind of dream you can dream up, God is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we could ever ask for, hope for or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20) In a nutshell, He loves to blow His children away.
Why am I sharing this? Because one day (hopefully soon) this hellacious season of purifying will be over and my life will look so incredibly different than it does right now. And if my story can encourage you, then that’s what I want. I want you to see that if you’ve yielded yourself and you’re being refined and purified, your blessings are coming too. Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.
When you’re yielded to God, the depth of your struggle determines the depth of your joy. The pain that’s digging deep inside of you, perhaps even to your core, is forming a cavern that will be filled with joy.
So hold on and cling to Jesus. It’s so worth it.
*Refiner ~ Maverick City Music