Being remade in spiritual fire
By Jackie Morfesis
Fire is a force of nature, and its presence and purpose in scripture is tantamount to the faith journey. Fire is mentioned 474 times in the Bible beginning in Genesis and concluding in the Book of Revelation. The presence of God appeared as fire in the burning bush to Moses. St. John the Baptist foretold the coming of being baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire. John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” We also know that the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples at Pentecost imaged as fiery tongues above their heads. “And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each of them.” (Acts 2:3)
The power of fire cannot be underestimated. Fire has the power to demolish, destroy, damage, and injure. Fire can literally and metaphorically bring our lives to ashes. We also know that God has the power to bring beauty from ashes and raise up the seemingly hopeless remains of tragedy to bring victory and glory for His holy name.
Zaki is a nickname for my given Greek birthname, Zaharati. Zaki means fireplace in the Greek language. I admit that I am prone to be on fire. I am passionate about my faith walk. Interestingly, passion in Latin means “to suffer.” Suffering can open the door to closer intimacy with the Lord. Suffering can also lead to spiritual transformation.
Recently, a dear friend visited me in Charleston, a former roommate of mine from undergraduate university in Pennsylvania. We spent several lovely and enjoyable days together. We saw the beautiful sights, shared meaningful conversation, delicious meals, and of course, we reminisced. During the end of her stay, she looked at me and said, “Charleston agrees with you. You have been burnished in the fire.”
Very unusual and visually striking language, though not surprising since she is a professional artist and university professor. I took her words seriously and to heart.
She observed something in me that I have tangibly felt move through my life for many years. It is true. I have been burnished in the fire. The fire of God’s love and mercy.
I have again and again laid the ashes of my life at the foot of the cross and put my trust in God. I believe in God’s promises. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
There was a time in my life when I was almost consumed by literal flames. I remember standing with my two housemates in a family home at the New Jersey shore during an act of arson. The smoke was so thick and black that we could not even see each other.
In that moment, as we stood huddled together as the fire encroached, I felt the presence of my soul. I felt the presence of my soul so profoundly that I had no fear. None. I stood silently knowing I was in the hands of God. I knew even if my body were taken, the fire could not destroy what belonged to God. The one who knew me even before I was born.
Earthly fire destroys the material. But our soul belongs to God, and He will use spiritual fire to burn, remold, remake, and transform our lives for our benefit and for His glory. Nothing compares to being burned in the fire of God’s love. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:2)
I will never forget the night a vision came upon me when I was a youth counselor at Ionian Village, an Orthodox Christian camp in Greece. As I lay in my bed in our cabin and closed my eyes, I saw the most infinitesimal point of light in a field of darkness that grew and grew until it became a gigantic burning sun. I was flooded with the light of God. It was too much to bear. I felt I could not survive the awesome magnitude of the experience. I opened my eyes. When I closed my eyes again, I saw the saints and martyrs of the church swimming in the flames of fire but not being burned nor consumed.
I will also never forget the day my friend told me I was burnished, that despite everything that I have experienced, she saw a radiance in my face. What an amazing gift I was given from her words of knowledge and confirmation. Only God has the power to burn us in ways that refine, remold, remake, and transform.
Let us approach the trials and hardships in our lives with patience and trust. When we give our burdens to God, our trials become opportunities to strengthen, fortify, and embolden us. Our trials also give us the gifts of magnified mercy, compassion, and empathy for others. “For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.” (Psalm 66:10)
I pray that I continue to burn for my Lord. That I am never satisfied with being lukewarm. That I continue to persevere with the Lord as my anchor through every storm, earthly and divine. Through hardship and every suffering, let us trust in the Lord and know that He will burn us for His glory and bring beauty from ashes, again and again.
Jackie Morfesis is an author, advocate and creative artist. She holds a BFA in fine arts and an MA in liberal studies and is a former Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar to Greece. She is a Greek Orthodox Christian and devoted to spiritual matters.