The Refinery Process
It's 2 am on my 35th birthday. I woke up and couldn't sleep. I began to self reflect, as I'm sure many of you do on your birthday.
I remember 10 years ago, as I was turning 25, I sat in a chair to get my hair done and the stylist who was a young boy at a beauty school somewhere in Minneapolis (I was too cheap to pay a professional), said to me, "Omgosh are you scared that you're almost 30? Cause you're a lot closer to 30 than I am and I'm terrified!" I was mortified! How dare he say such a thing.
Here's the thing about that statement. Should I have been dreading turning 30? NO, absolutely not. But since I felt like my life was going no where, I did. One of my sisters had just got engaged and the other would announce her first pregnancy about a week later. Everyone else I knew was getting married or pregnant too. Here I was living paycheck to paycheck working myself into the ground with nothing to show for it. I had been circulating from one toxic relationship to another and throwing myself at anyone who would give me attention. I definitely was not serving God and had no desire to. Why would I serve a God who clearly had forgotten me? Even if He was good, He clearly didn't care about me from what I could tell. That's what I thought anyway.
But how wrong could I be?
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
This was my season at the bottom. There was lot of giving up, things that needed to be thrown away and uprooted. There was an abundance of hate that consumed me. As my husband would say, "This was where I discovered that Jesus is the rock at the bottom of rock bottom." I had to run right into Him to know it, but it had to happen.
Laying in bed one night, I begged God that if He existed, if He loved me at all that He would take me home. I didn't necessarily try to take my own life, but I begged that God would. I didn't see any purpose, I didn't see any reason why I would be missed or why I should keep going. As I lay there, praying this thought, I heard God say, "open your Bible". I thought "God, you are not hearing me?" He said, "you need to hear me." So, I did what He said. I opened my Bible which I was very unfamiliar with at this point in life. I opened to Jeremiah 29:11 where I read, "For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans of good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." God declared to my heart "I have not forgotten you at all and more than that I have prepared a future for you." In that moment of consumption, I knew that I was in a season. A season that would pass.
For years, I carried a lot of guilt and shame for my actions during that period. But I can see God's hand and His pursuit of my heart. I can look back now and see how He was refining me. I have come to a point where I can actually thank Him for even the worst parts of it all.
A few years ago God started teaching me about this exact refining process. You see, it's easy for us believers to see difficult times or bad seasons as attacks from the enemy, but often it's God who takes us through those times to remove the impurities from our life (Isa 1:25). When weapons or beautiful silver or metal pieces of art are made, they have to be thrown into a fiery furnace to melt down and remove the imperfections (Mal 3:2-3) this often is necessary in our lives to draw us back to purify us. Sometimes our choices have placed us into positions that require God to subject us to this suffering (Isa 48:10-11) often it's to redirect us like in Amos 4, but other times it's to test our faith.
For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.
I'm not sure who said it first, but I have heard it said that God loves you right where you are, but loves you too much to leave you there. If you're in a challenging season, ask God what He's trying to teach you. We often beg him to get us out of those moments, but He has us there for some lesson. Rather than beg and plead with Him to get you out, know that He's with you regardless of how difficult it may be.
If you've been here long or you know me at all you know I pride myself on being honest and transparent.
I won't lie to you and say that that was my outlook while I was in it, but I want you to know that you're not alone. In my worst moments, I didn't see Him, I couldn't fathom how He could allow some of the things that happened to me. But I can honestly say now, I know He was there and I know what He has done in me through even the darkest times. As I turn 35, I can look back and reflect on the last 10 years of refining and though it hurt (a lot) I truly am grateful because it made me better, stronger and a greater lover of Him.