The Lesson of the Controlled Burn

Last week when I arrived at the retreat center for my silent prayer retreat the staff let me know they would be doing a controlled burn in the meadow near my cabin. It saved me from panicking when I saw the smoke a few hours later. Being a guy, I had to walk over to see what was happening.

The crews set intentional small fires in certain areas to burn off undergrowth. The spots they picked actually went up to mature trees and some saplings. After the burn was over I walked over to see what was left. The mature trees were fine as they stood in the midst of blackened ground. I was amazed that even the saplings were fine. The charred areas were clearly defined. The crews had perfectly controlled the burn, then made sure the fires were completely out before they left.

As I walked through that area the Spirit spoke to my heart.

“Silence and solitude is like a controlled burn. I can bring you to this place and work on you. The junk in your life can be burned off if you let me. If you don’t allow this junk to be burned off, then the fire that burns later will burn out of control and even what is living may not survive.”

It was a powerful visual for me. If I allowed the Spirit to mold me and shape me, it was a controlled burn. There are just things that need re-adjusting in my life from time to time. If I don’t get rid of junk, it piles up. The Spirit can pull me aside in prayer and deal with that junk, OR I can let it build up and allow a wildfire to start. It’s up to me.

I am thankful for the controlled burn.

I am also thankful for the gentle rain that fell on the retreat center the day I left. It was another reminder of another work of the Spirit in my life. Growth can happen when the Spirit is allowed to plow the field.

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