Controlled Burning

Through the eyes of a Yankee child,  a controlled burning looks anything but controlled.

We were three little girls still reeling from a life-altering move from New Jersey, then number one in population density, to a small town outside of a small town in South Carolina. We found ourselves plucked up from bustling life on the Jersey shore and plopped down in the middle of 234 acres. Iced tea had become sweet tea, and you guys had morphed into y’all; we were learning to reconcile two very different worlds.
A few weeks into our move, while playing outside, the smell of fire began wafting onto our property. Shortly thereafter came huge bellows of smoke and a gray haze.
The world was surely on fire. We were all going to die. The fire trucks from the closest fire station would never get here in time. Even if they got to our land, they would have to survive the mile or two washboard dirt road from the mailbox to our house. (I may have neglected to mention that I was a dramatic and worried child).
One of our employees, who had clearly been rurally-raised, laughingly  assured us that this was a routine, controlled burning. In my mind, a controlled burning happened in an oven or a fireplace, or maybe even in a metal trash can in the yard. But we were dealing with acres upon acre of forest and field, and this looked anything but controlled.
How would those little mounds of dirt bordering the property lines hold back the flames? Why would anyone do this? Don’t they love their land?
After the burning died down, trees were singed to waist high, and the earth was black and crunchy. It looked awful and smelled for days.
Clearly we survived. The land not only recovered, but eventually thrived after the fire. That being said, it would have been immensely comforting and helpful to know a few key facts, namely that controlled burnings are purposeful, planned and protected fires administered by experts.
When an aging Peter wrote to his beloved suffering church, he offered them such priceless perspective on the controlled burnings that were happening in and around them.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 1 Peter 1:3 & 6.
It probably did not feel like a little while; it probably felt like entirely too long to be in the flames. The people he dearly loved were getting singed on every side and were perplexed; thus, Peter offered an empathetic word of timely perspective.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4: 12-13. 
So often, the fiery trials we walk through feel terrifyingly out of control.  The flames singe and scare, seeming to threaten all that we know and love. Dreams and plans are destroyed and left in crunchy heaps all around us.
As we walk through flames ourselves or watch those we love experience fires of deep suffering, confusion, pain and disappointment, the same essential truths offer priceless perspective. The trials of our lives are purposeful, planned, protected fires administered by an expert Father.
The rightful owner of our lives and lots deeply loves his land. He is invested in to the point of dying for it.
He has a long-term perspective on our lives and lots, one that will allow intense burning, but only to the extent that it will bring more life later.
He has sure borders on the fires in our lives; the flames will not exceed the time and spaces allotted for them, though so often they seem to be raging on for far too long.
We have full freedom to express sadness, anger, confusion and grief at the damage being done. Fire is fire, and burns hurt deeply. However, these controlled fires will not have the last word; new life will. God has not only promised, but also demonstrated that new life will win in the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie
My grace all sufficient shall be your supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design
Thy dross to remove and thy gold to refine. 
(from the hymn How Firm a Foundation)

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