Monday, June 25, 2012

Survival is Victory

It’s true sometimes. I’ve blogged lately about fire, how we Christians, we followers of Christ, we brave few, are called to at times to follow our Savior right through it. In the fire, ugly things get burned clean off us. The loving masculine hand of Christ guides us into these brave places where life and death walk naked and can be seen for what they are. Here, survival is victory.

The first time Jesus Christ leads a man through the furnace of His severe and fearsome love, it feels like the end of all things. The universe tilts, the earth wobbles on its axis. But like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, when we’re plunged into the flames we find it a kind of sanctuary, a baptism that cleanses us from those things that overshadow us: the past and its power to condemn, addictions, habits, ruts of behavior. We find in the fire, for the first time, that there is peace. The blaze of our Savior’s gaze—His undivided attention, so unbearable for those who have not yet bent the knee—is ultimate catharsis. It is the homecoming for which we all hunger, whether we know it or not.

We soon find in the fire that there is nothing to fear there. When we emerge on the other side, burnished clean and glowing, we find ourselves stronger, lighter, bolder. Less apt to waver. Not led about by whim and fancy. We know our purpose, we know who we are, we have beheld the magnificence of the only wise God, and we are forever changed. Fear slides off us now. What once might have bowed our backs, crippled our knees, and melted our hearts is now as nothing. Our perspective has changed; we know now what matters because we have looked death in the face and seen there is nothing there to fear.

And we sing a new song. One that cannot begin to express the measure of pain we have felt. It is pain that matters a great deal, because we bear the marks of Christ on our hearts now; we are bound to Him in fellowship, in brotherhood, in understanding—because we have walked the same paths, have we not? Our new song is one of love, but even this song won’t do enough to prove our love for Him. We firewalkers will not stop short of pouring out our lives for the One we have beheld in the quiet place of the crucible. We are not the same as we were before.

We will never be the same. The embrace of God is an irrevocable thing. For those who know, for those who have heard His call, there is nothing else that will ever satisfy. Nothing. For us, when we say I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, we know it’s true because we have lived it. Not because of us. But because of the One who reveals Himself in the fire, who strips everything away but Himself, His everything-presence, the One who has overshadowed All, the One who showed us that survival is victory. What remains is pure.