Refining Fire

Refining Fire

I M P R E S S I O N S

In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! For I have overcome the world. // John 16:33
Heartbreak is inherent to the human experience. In our journeys through the valley, it can be easy to lose sight of the hope and promise we have in Jesus. This series is designed to offer hope, encouragement, and purpose through powerful testimony, shared experience, and the redeeming work of the Father.

 

I am a sinner saved by Gods’ grace. Never perfect but always improving.

I can still hear her words like a gun firing in close proximity to uncovered ears. “Be careful,” she said, as young, naïve Jon let it slide in one ear and out the other, not able to see the imminent devastation ahead.

It took me several years and several valleys to understand why those words, straight from my mother’s mouth, were sticking in my head like the chorus of a favorite song. They were a warning. A warning with meaning I did not and could not comprehend at that time - the downside of being a “know it all” with selfish intent. I couldn’t at that time, and probably didn’t want to, realize that my actions were directly and profoundly affecting the women that were in my life.

“Be careful." These words, while typically used for something minuscule, were being said by a wise woman who could see from the outside that I was heading down the wrong path. Looking back, I can see that those words were borderline prophetic. Spoken as if to say, learn now or be refined in the fire of life later. In my mind it was as though she handed me a vase, said "Be careful," and I simply set it down and forgot about it. In reality it should have seemed like she handed me a heart in a glass case that either needed returned wholly to the owner or kept and cared for by me forever never to be dropped, broken or given back in pieces. 

“Be careful." With every text, date, lie, kiss, or affectionate encounter, I tried harder and harder to convince myself the emptiness would go away, happiness feels like this, the void will be gone now. I couldn’t see that I was trying to fill a Jesus shaped void with a devil shaped piece, like a toddler trying to put a square block through a round hole. I selfishly moved from one relationship to the next, getting what I thought I needed from each whether it was simply an ear to talk to, or a little alone time. 

My identity, with each encounter, was on a ship being fueled by bad decisions and driven by the devil into an endless black hole.

“Be careful." She wasn’t warning me that I might get hurt, she was telling me, I was going to hurt others and in turn lose myself. She was telling me I was going to drop those glass covered hearts and try to give them back broken in pieces. She was telling me that I was finding my identity in the wrong places. And yet, how could I, the self-proclaimed “perfect partner”, possibly hurt anyone? Years down the road, I realized that with each relationship I took a part of the other person - their time, their heart, their feelings - and selfishly when I thought it should be done, I dropped that glass covered heart giving it back in pieces, because the only “happiness” that mattered was mine. 

“Be careful. Everything you give in life will be returned to you and more”. I swore for years I would make the best boyfriend, fiancé, and husband any man has ever been. Fast forward from college to late July 2016, one week before my beautiful wife, Ashley, and my 2nd year wedding anniversary, where we found ourselves on the brink of divorce. How did we get here? Where do we go from here? How did we let this happen?

The pain I caused had officially come full circle. It was my turn to suffer, to have my glass covered heart dropped, to hit rock bottom in the deepest of valleys. I realized I was not completely blameless in the events, in fact, a good part of my late teens and early twenties were all leading up to it. It was only then that I placed the Jesus piece in the Jesus void in my life. Suddenly the world around me had new colors, new meaning, new identity, and new purpose. 

I realized I needed that valley, that refining fire, in order to start the climb back up to the mountain tops God had in store for me. 

“Be careful." Often, we do not realize the amount of power we have in other people’s lives that can be used for glory or destruction. The pain I caused others for years came full circle and hit me exactly where it needed to for me to realize where my true identity was found. My wife and I stayed married, put God completely (not partially) at the center of our marriage, are expecting our first child in June, and talk often about the incredible ways God has been blessing us since we've found our true identities and purposes.

In my time of absolute heartbreak, I didn’t get angry with God. I didn’t start screaming why me, why this, why now. I prayed, and I prayed a lot. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this season in my life had a divine purpose. And it was hard. Really hard. Sure, it would have been easier to make a totally rash emotional decision at the time, but that would have led to further pain and regret. I knew I needed God in that situation because I was ill-equipped to handle it on my own.  

In time, I've become thankful that God allowed me to go through the fire and pain. Through it all, He showed me many weaknesses of mine, how far off His path I was, and just how weak and lonely I was without Him. That pain is what put me back on track to pursuing eternal glory for the Kingdom and helped me start pursuing my passion/my calling in youth ministry. If there is any insight I could offer from that season of walking through the fire, it's this:

Understand that just like in my life, the pain, torture, hard times, struggles, and valleys are setting you up for mountain tops you never thought you'd reach. Sometimes what seems like a setback is really a set up. 

Trust in the plans of the Lord. He is good, He is kind, and He is for us.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” // Jeremiah 29:11
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