If you’re anything like me you’ve cherished the opportunity to be in the company of those people who by means of their very presence compel refinement. You’ve no doubt encountered such people, that is, those who carry about them an inspiriting atmosphere which acts as a refiner’s fire as you draw near unto them.
The strange thing about such people is that they can be some of the most uncomfortable people to be around. They challenge your assumptions, test your limits, bring pressure on your weaknesses and love you unconditionally while constantly urging you to be a better person. Rather than fluff pillows around you, they let the pressure build on that which is no longer fitting in your expression and they realize that they cannot do the work that you need to do for yourself.
When faced with the refiner’s fire you have two basic options: 1) give thanks for it and move swiftly to the center of the flame by releasing that which no longer belongs or 2) react against it, put up shields to deflect its purifying heat, then run and hide. When you walk boldly into the flame the temporary discomfort is replaced by a deep sense of peace that only comes when you do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. When you take cover from the refiner’s fire, the temporary relief from the discomfort is soon replaced by the sisters of mediocrity: agitation, emptiness and numbness.
In my experience the greater part of men choose the latter strategy, preferring a life of fleeting comfort to a life of ongoing refinement and lasting fulfillment. It is a sad spectacle to watch someone trade a moment of relief for a lifetime of misery, but it happens with disturbing regularity. I’ve watched friends, family, employees and even people I respected as leaders give in to this temptation.
The saddest cases are those in which the person knew better, knew the stakes and still elected to throw away the opportunity to refine. You never know who will choose to accept the call, who will luxuriate in the purifying heat of the fire and who will reject it. Those who respond will surprise you as much as those who do not.
There will, as there have been throughout most of recorded history, be those who not only shield their hearts from the fire but who then seek to snuff the flame or eradicate its source. Such people are not to be feared, but pitied and forgiven, for as it was once said “they know not what they do.”
As you begin to fan this flame in your own being by virtue of your acceptance of the call to refinement, you will have the privilege, honor and responsibility of influencing the world around you in ways that you may have always wished for but never really thought would be possible. This is an invisible influence with quite visible, tangible effects. It is the central means by which you replenish the earth and help others to their fulfillment.