An opportunity to change for the better

Many of us will have watched with shock and horror, the footage of the beautiful Mourne Mountains ablaze

Rev Danielle McCullough, curate at Lisburn Cathedral

A horrendous and destructive fire tore across that famous landscape, and it took days and a huge amount of effort to contain and finally extinguish. Credit must go to the fire and rescue crews who worked tirelessly to bring an end to the fire.

The result is a scorched landscape which will take years to be restored. Birds and wildlife have been wiped out and their habitats ruined. I’ve heard experts discuss when we will see a full return of the wide variety of species that once called Slieve Donard home. Time will tell the extent of the damage and whether it might be temporary damage or more permanent.

Fire is relentless, powerful, dangerous, and destructive. Yet, when it can be harnessed it can also be incredibly useful. In a spiritual sense it can be helpful to us. The Bible talks about the idea of a refiner’s fire. One of the most famous instances of that picture is in Malachi 3:2-3, where it says “For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.”

The idea of a refiner’s fire is that it’s used to melt down a metal, such as gold or silver, for purification purposes.

Once a metal is in its melted down state, the dross in the metal rises to the top and can then be removed, leaving the goldsmith with the purest and best possible material to work with.

This past year has been something of a fire for us all. The question is, will we allow it simply to be a destructive fire, sweeping across the globe destroying lives, businesses, and whole economies? Or are there aspects of it which have been something of a refiner’s fire? As you think back on how life was two years ago when we were full steam ahead as a society, what things have been removed through the fire of Covid19, which have been helpful to you personally? Things, activities or even mindsets which you hope never to return to. As a Christian I’m asking God to help me in that process.

One of my favourite verses is Job 23:10 “But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.” I love the idea that those difficult or even painful times in our lives don’t have to be viewed as simply destructive, but opportunity to change for the better, to become more like refined gold than scorched earth. The difference comes in allowing God to be the one who harnesses that fire.

We have seen the evidence of the refined gold in our community. There’s been so much positivity and creativity across Lisburn as we care more for ill and elderly neighbours, champion creative business ideas, and commit to shopping local where we can. There is a huge journey of rebuilding ahead of us. Why don’t you take some time as we emerge from Covid19, to ask God, “how can I personally, and we as a society, become refined gold because of our experience over the past year, rather than scorched earth?