Colder winters………I am still having to accept them. Florida and the UK sit on both sides of the pendulum. You can’t have more extremes. Sunny days to snowstorms. I remember the early days of English living where I chose not to wear socks in the winter. Careless to how cold it was, so stubborn and determined to stay in flip flops all year round, I wasn’t about to invest in better footwear. Silly girl you must be thinking, and a silly girl I was. A lesson I had to learn the hard way. I could have saved myself some heartache. And as silly as it sounds, six years into being here and I am still learning. These days I wear socks and own an outrageous amount of slippers but I have yet to master the importance of gloves. It’s a work that is still in process.
One night while out walking with my better half, all things Irish, I asked him a question. Bearing in mind we are out in the cold, walking on an overpass, high up, cars underneath, and wind pressing against your face so hard you thought your skin was being pierced with small shards of glass made up of ice. All I wanted was warmth and I ask him,
What is your ideal fireplace? Would you rather have a gas fire or a fireplace that requires real wood to burn?
He answered, “The gas fire is easy maintenance, no mess, easy to turn on and turn off, it keeps clean. The fireplace that requires the
wood has mess. Ash needs to be cleaned out, wood needs to be
purchased and stored somewhere but it’s definitely prettier to look at.” He’s a practical man so the obvious answer would be the gas fire but I am not going to give away his answer. What I will say is that his explanations of both made me think.
In the gospel of John, Jesus says before He heads to cross, “I’ve said these things to you so that you will have peace in me. In the world you have distress. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world.” Other translations say that we will have trouble and tribulation. The good news translation says it all, The world will make you suffer.
We may or may not believe in the existence of God. We can choose to deny and reject God or we can choose to embrace Him. Either way none of us can deny facing times of distress, trouble, tribulation, heartache, pain and suffering. We see it in our own lives when our inner worlds are chaotic and an outer worlds are struggling to stay afloat. When we look beyond ourselves we see it in the lives of others around us, in our friends with broken marriages, in our co-workers who are discouraged, in students dealing with a new step parent. When we look even wider we see women raped and abused in the news, we see nations going to war against other nations and countries going to war with their own people.
Jesus was onto something. There is no escaping it. Unless we are living in a state of denial. And my sweet man’s response to my question highlighted two approaches we can have when dealing with difficult, trying, and testing times that are unavoidable in life.
1. We choose the gas fire approach. We want the quick, we want the easy, we want the instant, not very messy, practical approach. We don’t want to make the emotional, spiritual investment into who we are and who we could become if we just embraced it.We want to encounter and go through the suffering in the least amount of time, with the least amount of pain experienced, with the least amount of change. The picture of the fire is normal, and average. It gives off no fragrance. It does the job, it keeps a room heated but that’s about it. It serves as just a function in the room. Hard seasons of life are to be expected. But they breathe opportunity for change, for growth, for rebirth, for renewed perspective and ultimately bringing us to a place of transformation. The gas fire approach is just survival in the midst. Life is about more than just surviving and making do. If we want it to be.
More often than not I find myself wanting to choose this approach. Because it requires less sacrifice. It requires less work, less attention, thought, care, and consideration for others. But as of late, I seeing the importance and significance of the second approach, of the process.
2. We choose the wood fire approach. We understand that somethings that we find difficult such as change, or a particular season in life that brings distress, we enter into it knowing it’s going to require extra work to get to the other side but to allow the process of transformational change to happen. Even if it takes longer, even if it’s initially harder. We don’t want to just get to the other side, and to survive we want to be changed by it. At times it will be messy, and the mess will have to be cleaned up, and then another mess will be made, and then it needs to be cleaned again. But in the end the picture is far prettier to look at. The logs, the sound of cracking. The fragrance of the fire permeates a house and anyone that comes into that space. The warmth is genuine. It’s a slower burn. When we commit to follow Christ we choose the slower burn. When we commit to others we choose the slower burn. When we commit to only ourselves, we choose the quick burn and we are the ones who are burned in the end.
Quick fix or learn to trust the process? Shallowness or depth? God is not a God of the quick fixes. He’s more interested in character.
When difficult things come up, when trials come, I want to be able to say that I trusted God in the process, I trusted God for the process, and I now I trust God even more because of having to go through the process.
“And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there.” 1 Corinthians 7:17