Fire! Fire! How quickly those words strike fear into our hearts! Yet, fire is the means of rejuvenating the creation along the shoreline.

It starts oftentimes with a very small flame in the tinder dry dunegrass caused by a lightning strike, fireworks, a match, cigarette butt or a fire poorly attended. The result is the same– a roaring inferno. It spreads faster than you can run pushed by the constant lakeshore winds. It doesn’t stop until it runs out of dry fuel.

I have seen terrible damage. This past summer, three year-round residences filled with material possessions and memories were burned to the ground. Only blackened skeletons remained. The cause was careless use of fireworks. Other times it may be a destroyed landscape or wooden stairways to the beach left a smoldering and charred mess. One of my workers even saved a house by scooping sand on the encroaching flame with his bare hands.

Many times I have been called to hillside burns to give my “professional opinion” as to whether the dunegrass will grow back sufficiently to protect the dunes from blowing away. It looks like all the plants are dead and charred. Invariably I tell them to wait until the end of summer to see what recovers. “ Just wait to see what happens.” Unless there is a lot of wood to burn at a high temperature and scorch their roots, the dunegrass and other dune plants come back. In fact, they come back stronger and healthier than ever before.

The reason for this phenomenon is that the fire releases the nutrients of the dead plants back into the sand. It is God’s way of cleaning up a mess and fertilizing what remains. Soon the points of new sprouts of dunegrass begin to poke through the blackened sand. Within a year, the plants make it all green again and little clues remain of the conflagration.

Fire is a good thing in the dunes. The only bad thing is when men and their possessions are hurt or damaged in the process.

I am using the example of dunegrass and the dunes, however, the same thing is true of wildflowers, meadows, prairies and old growth or diseased forest. Interestingly, by stopping forest fires we only delay the God created process of cleansing the earth. By interfering—necessary though it may be– we create a much more serious and deadly fire danger in the future.

Isn’t it striking that the purifying process of fire is true also of us spiritually? Often God uses the fire of pain, sickness and trials to cleanse and focus us spiritually. Usually, when the pain is gone we realize that we have been brought closer to Him. When we come to feel the burning of His wrath for our sins, we are driven to the cross of Christ for forgiveness. It is then that we grow in His grace and abound in good works to His glory.

Do we dare to pray for purifying fire? I think not. If we are His children we will experience it in some way. However, we must not be afraid of the fire of trials because through it blessings of salvation pour out upon us. In fact, through fire we will inherit the purified new heavens and earth where we will dwell forever with God.

Lord, preserve us in the fire!

I Peter 4:12

I Corinthians 3:13

Sacred Flame

Burn in me O Sacred Flame.
Remove my natural dross,
That o’erwhelms my heart with shame,
Sins no more my spirit toss.

Burn in me O Sacred Flame.
Purify my every thought.
Shape my mind and Yours the same,
Make my own will come to naught.

Burn in me O Sacred Flame.
Remove my black heart of sin.
In mercy cleanse each vile stain.
Spark Your Light of life within.

Burn in me O Sacred Flame.
Kindle a hope for glory.
Where love’s prize I’ll surely gain.
Singing salvations story.

Deane Wassink,