Friday, October 22, 2021

Burning the Living with the Dead: Some Things Need to Die

I am the vine and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit... Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the granary, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.

The background noise of my childhood was the dread of my adolescence, the desperate attempt of redemption for a young man, and finally, the unexpected identity of this veteran soul. Constant and steady truth, met with never-ending shifts in my personal perspective. What was once noise is now the symphony that pushes back my insanity. I calm my soul and listen to the crack and pop of the burning branches. Together they burn... what is alive and what is dead.

I am gripped by this realization. My own soul burns with what was once alive and with what needs to die. I am this inferno of past and present, of angel and demon. It all burns together. This is the only way of purification. The dry and dead fuels and heats the green and living. The stuff of the past and branches of the present. It all must burn together to be refined. The smoke causes my eyes to tear and I watch little wisps of what once was float away on the evening breeze.

The past two hours were spent ripping honeysuckle from the earth. This beautiful vine that flowers golden with sweet nectar... quickly spreads and smothers out all other vegetation. Beware. Not all that is beautiful is good. Honeysuckle was introduced to the land here. It grows its leaves earlier than the native plants and then steals the light with its leaves, holding them back as it spreads.

There was something immensely satisfying about gripping this deceptively beautiful plant with my hands, setting my feet firm into the earth, and then ripping it from the ground, roots and all. What was to big to pull would be lopped or cut, with poison sprayed on the stump. Clear out the chaff so the indigenous plants could again grow.

The harvested honeysuckle branches, roots, berries, and leaves were then dragged to the fire. 

They wouldn't burn on their own. They were too green and too moist. I looked across the field and saw a pile of fallen pine branches. They were dry and brown. Suddenly I had a thought... a memory of scripture that recounted burning chaff. Maybe in this instance the branches didn't need separated, living from dead.

No, here the dead was necessary to burn the living. What once was good and dead could be used to burn what is now bad and alive. Yes, that was it! The by product of what was once good, could be used to snuff out this present evil. And so I began to stack the layers.

A bed of dried pine branches, layers of green honeysuckle, more pine, more honeysuckle... pile it over and over until it towered at eye level. Light the pine and watch it flash! It burns hot and it spreads uncontrollably, it cannot be contained. It began to consume the honeysuckle. Like the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal, the fire of God utterly destroyed the false Gods... the purity of the pine reduced the honeysuckle to ash. The indigenous in death defeated the interloper in life.

The land was being purified through labor, death, and fire. I stood in the smoke and considered this against my own journey. I've been through a time of purification. It required hard work on my own part. Self-examination, honesty, and change. It required death to bad habits and dangerous thinking. It required the hot fire of regret, grief, and even despair. Purification and reclamation come only with a price.

We must work for it. We must accept death to the old self. We must be willing to have our past and our present to be purified by fire. Only then are we again prepared for the new life of our indigenous soul to rise from the ash.  

John 15
Matthew 3

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