Refiners’ Fire & Fullers’ Soap

Delivering a child. Running a marathon. Walking away from the wrong person. Sacrificing your selfishness for the right person. Selling that first vehicle for one with better gas mileage. What do these all have in common? They’re painful things, but in the end we are better for it. (That last one might just be me? I’m having flashbacks to 18 year old Caitlin crying at the dealership as we traded my Chevy truck for the Pontiac…)

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J & I after a 5K. It was no marathon, but still a painful experience for me!

Do you know what’s also painful? The refining process, spiritually speaking. Sometimes our pain is self-inflicted, but sometimes God allows a trial to purge us of something worse than the momentary discomfort it may bring. I believe these holy trials can either make us resentful, or refined.

“God never moves without purpose or plan when trying His servant & molding a man… I could not see through the shadows ahead, so I looked to the cross of my Savior instead. I bowed to the will of my Master that day. Then peace came & tears fled away… For when I am tried & purified, I shall come forth as gold.” – Ron Hamilton

There have been times I’ve prayed to be better. God answered my prayer, helping me to rise to the occasion, but never the way I thought & it often brought some pain. The pain of leaving something behind, denying myself, looking straight at some emotion I had been ignoring. Before I left for college, I prayed for a stronger faith. This meant saying goodbye to things & people I was comfortable with, but the Lord readily replaced the  harmful things with friends that were strengthening. When I got married, I prayed for a more selfless spirit, I wanted to be the wife God wanted me to be. And He gave me opportunities to be vulnerable, to let someone in to the parts of me with walls, because if I don’t allow myself to be loved deeply, how can I love deeply? When I found out I would have a child, I asked Him to give me a mother’s heart & for the wisdom to raise him for God. The Lord taught me how to rely on Him fully, being faced with something I couldn’t do in my own strength. I learned humility & submission to His will like I hadn’t before.

And I am thankful for each painful moment. Now, they are beautiful. But not always immediately. Often, I was resentful first. I felt more closed off, further from God. But it’s because I was still being led by my feelings. When I finally prayed for God’s perspective, read His word with my situation in mind, talked it over with another believer, that’s when the refining process began.

After I delivered my child, I experienced a sort of resentment.Then, one of the first verses that randomly crossed my path in my half-hearted devotions was Malachi 3.2-3.

But who may abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap. And He shall sit as a Refiner and Purifier of silver, and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.

What’s funny is I heard this verse for the first time on Thanksgiving during a Bible trivia game! (Nerdy, I know…) I was struck by the weird terminology “fullers’ soap.” Then it popped up again, a clue that God wanted me to look closer.

This passage is speaking to God’s people, whom He loves, a message to let them know that He is coming back for them since they have finally decided to follow Him again. But in order for them to have the communion they once had with the Lord, they needed to be purified, they needed to be refined. God uses the analogy of purifying silver & gold with fire to remove all impurities. Fullers’ soap was used to scour clothing in a mill to make it white after it had been dirtied. This is what He desires to do with us. He wants to remove our impurities & dirt. First, by saving us through Jesus Christ. Then, as a continual process of becoming more like Him. He loves us too much to leave us dirtied by the world.

For me, this meant that He was purifying me of pride, of relying too heavily on worldly knowledge & prior plans that may one day keep me from making the right decisions for my son. I don’t want to teach Baby J to rely on his own strength, I want him to rely on Jesus. So I am being taught how to do that now. For my own good & for his. I could give you a million of examples of how God led me through a refining process. I’m not sure if this process ever really ends, but I hope that I can one day say what Job said…

…When He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. – Job 23.10

You may not understand your trial right now. When the silver is in the fire, it’s just hot, its impurities are still there, slowly melting away. It may not be until you’re out of the fire that you realize you are closer to God, cleaner, more pure. Don’t miss that by being resentful! Pray when you don’t feel it, read His word even when you don’t see the point, & don’t underestimate the power of writing it down, giving it a name. Sometimes we need to write it down so that God can speak to us between the lines…

Is God leading you through your own refining process?

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