Springtime comes to the Flint Hills with smoke and flame. Cottonwood Falls, in Chase County, actually has a Prairie Fire Festival in April every year to celebrate the seasonal burning off of pastures.
While it may seem strange for farmers and ranchers to deliberately set their fields ablaze, there’s a good reason for the practice. It imitates what happens in nature when a lightning strike sparks a fire. The ground looks scorched and dead when the flames have passed, but in a few weeks the hills are green again. The fire burns away weeds and other plants that don’t belong on the prairie. But the roots of the prairie grass and other native plants go deep and can withstand the fire. The grass grows back and the pasture is healthier because of the cleansing fire.
This passage in Hebrews talks about the refining process we go through as we walk with Christ. (Malachai 3 actually calls it a refiner’s fire.) We don’t usually welcome persecution or discipline, but when our faith roots go deep, we can grow stronger through the experience. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Heb. 3:11, ESV)
Difficult times have a refining effect on our lives. When we come to a place where we know we can’t do it on our own, then we rely fully on God. We may look battered and beaten on the outside, but our souls flourish in the nourishment only God can give. And like the flame-scorched earth, we will grow more abundantly as a result of God’s cleansing fire.