I posted "Refining Silver" not because I simply wanted to piggyback off of someone else's work, but rather because that little story has touched my life in immeasurable ways over the last few years. Did anything strike you as odd about my "Death of Reality" post? Maybe that it was just incredibly self-centered? It was. Go back and re-read it if you're not convinced. That's how I spent the first thirty years of my life--centered on me. I don't think I was ever a really self-indulgent or conceited person, but I still tended to wallow in self-pity.
Did you notice when reading "Refining Silver" whose image was reflected in the silver when it was finished? The silver has no 'image' of its own. Much like a mirror, the only thing silver can do is reflect. See, when I looked in a mirror during the years I was focused on self, I just spent way too much time and energy worrying about what other people saw in me...did they accept me, did they love me, did I do things that made *me* look good? None of that ever mattered. The only image that people should have seen in me was that of the Refiner--the Lord God--and I'm fairly certain that His image was being overshadowed by what I wanted people to see. It makes me ill to look back and see how I was more worried about what PEOPLE thought of me through all of that than I was about the sin that had enslaved me. It makes me even more sick to think that I'd spend another fourteen years stuck in apathy and complacency spiritually before I would finally be "rattled" out of my chains!
I could spend weeks writing about how Pete and I struggled those first few years of our marriage, and how hard it was for us to "make it" when it felt like the entire world was just waiting for us to fall flat on our faces. Maybe later. It's really not important. For all intents and purposes, I really didn't even begin to truly "live" until about 2003. That was a very pivotal year for us, and for me. Things haven't been the same since, and I hope they never are.
On January 19, 2003, Pete and nearly 200 other soldiers piled onto buses and departed Fort Stewart, Georgia, bound for Kuwait...and ultimately, Iraq. For two months, we had semi-regular contact with them, and then, on the 17th of March, I got the last phone call I would receive for nearly two months. Two days later, our soldiers "crossed the birm" and made history, defeating the Iraqi Republican Guard and just about every other opposing force in their path on the huge spearhead toward Baghdad to begin Operation Iraqi Freedom. Those first few weeks of the war were terrifying. I joined the ranks of thousands of other women who had laid awake night after night wondering if their husbands would ever return home; wondering where on earth they were--if they were safe, if they were even alive? I, and probably every other military spouse and child who had a soldier over there at the time like me, was glued to the news, hoping for some idea of what was going on. Hoping to find out something--anything--about the soldier whose dog tags I clung to. I finally got that glimpse when I spied the telltale streaks in the sky that I recognized as MLRS rocket fire. Suddenly, knowing that Pete and "our guys" were at the very tip of that spearhead, paving the way northward, I wished I'd never seen it.
Even though I was fighting my own battle with fear during that time, I had to become something I'd never been before--a mentor. I had, by virtue of my husband's position and my experience with four other deployments, become the person-to-call for nearly twenty spouses and moms. It wasn't a job I wanted, but I got it anyway, and I learned very quickly that God had used those other deployments to train me for THAT one. I can't recall how many hours I spent on the phone, or how many times my cell phone battery ran dead because I was on the phone calming down, consoling, and just listening to the rants and vents of other frazzled wives. I organized meetings, checked up on people I'd not heard from, wrote newsletters, and eventually made the phone calls that ALL of us were looking forward to, telling them that their soldiers were on a plane bound for home. It was surreal, but I learned something huge during that five month nightmare--it was very easy for me to deal with my own demons when I was focused on helping everyone else around me. My problems seemed tiny compared to women who had given birth just DAYS before their husbands left for war. I didn't mind that Pete was giving up his phone time to his subordinates because I knew just how bad-off their wives were back home and how badly they needed to hear from their husbands.
I also learned something else--God USES Christians to minister to others even in the midst of some of the worst trials in their lives. The love of God is not some elusive, mystical power that we just hope to see someday after we're dead. It's real, and it's displayed in the lives of those who "are called according to His purpose". I never really understood what "being called" meant until I had an opportunity thrown right under my nose. It was my choice whether to take that opportunity to minister to others or not. I could have shrunk down into my own little cave and spent the entire time focused on how miserable I was....but I just couldn't bear to look all those women in the face who were turning to me for help and comfort. I could have chosen not to take that "call", but His purpose became so evident, who was I to turn it down?
It was that fire, in 2003, that I learned something vital about the Refiner....He never takes His eyes off of the silver that He is refining, and even though that fire is painful, it is necessary. I would never have become the person God meant for me to be had I led a life of ease. I would not be able to see things from the perspective I have now if I'd not been through the fire.
It wasn't for another two years that I'd learn I had a much greater fire in my future, and a much harder mission to fulfill.
But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.