The Crucible and Lessons from Waldo Canyon Fire*
There is an incredible concept found in the writings of the apostle Paul and elsewhere in the New Testament that we need to grasp. Paul calls it the “sanctification of the believer” (see Romans 15:16; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). Sanctification occurs over a long period of time; you see the idea here is that every day after my baptism I am to let God show me parts of my life that need to be changed from my character to His character. When I see my weaknesses, failures and sins, I go to Him for empowering grace and forgiveness by confessing and repenting of wrongdoing. I let God put the fruit of Christian character in its place (see Galatians 5:22-23). “Sanctification,” simply means that little by little I become “set apart” from my old way of responding to life by the slow, powerful, determined work of the Holy Spirit in my daily experiences.
As a man or woman before God you can cooperate with the Holy Spirit as “Supreme Mentor” to your son or daughter. You need to trust that He will give your believing son and daughter insight on a regular basis; both through the Bible and through his conscience (see John 14:25-26; 16:12-13). He will cause your son and daughter to ask, “Is it wrong to do this?” “What is the right thing to do?” or, “What should my Christian attitude be?” In these instances the Holy Spirit will bring insight—maybe a scripture or a memory of what you, his dad (or mother), would say or do—to help lead them down the right path.
Though you and I can be spiritual coaches, it is the Holy Spirit, then, and no one else, who will give your son and daughter the power to live a life that’s different and godly. If we teach our children to yield to this process and not ignore the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit, then God will mold them into strong men and women of good character.
The familiar illustration is that of a molder in a foundry who sits by a crucible of molten metal that is not yet fit for use. As the molder stands watch over the crucible, occasionally he removes some of the dross as it bubbles to the surface. He knows the job is done when he can see his own face perfectly reflected, like a mirror, on the surface of the molten metal. So it is with the work of the Holy Spirit. God continues to cleanse and change us until He sees the image of Jesus Christ reflected in us, His sons and daughters.
Obviously, this illustration of being in the crucible—a trial by fire, if you please—with white hot flames all about you is most reminiscent of the Waldo Canyon Fire that recently swept through the Shadow Mountain area of Colorado Springs. I don’t want to read too much into it, but those who have come through this horrific ordeal feel a kind of refining as though they, too, have had the dross removed and have emerged with a new perspective on life.
The key is to help our children see the parallels and, likewise, yield to the work of the Holy Spirit (often depicted as a flame), versus exerting their own will over sin. Paul the apostle knew well the tactics of mere legalists, who were trying to force Christians to abstain from wrongdoing: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” (Colossians 2:21). He knew, however, that “such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom,” but lack any power “in restraining sensual indulgence” (vs. 23).
Paul likened the Christian life to a race. He talked about disciplining himself much the same way an athlete trained for the Olympic Games in Rome. Teaching your sons and daughters some simple, spiritual disciplines is important. Disciplines like a quiet time, study of the Word, prayer, and fellowship—will help our sons yield their lives over to the heavenly Father on a daily basis so that He can guide and change them. Richard Foster says,
Picture a narrow ledge with a sheer drop-off on either side. The chasm to the right is the way of moral bankruptcy through human strivings for righteousness. . . . The chasm to the left is the way of moral bankruptcy through the absence of human strivings. . . . On the ledge there is a path, the disciplines of the spiritual life. This path leads to the inner transformation and healing for which we seek. We must never veer off to the right or the left, but stay on the path. . . . As we travel on this path, the blessing of God will come upon us and will reconstruct us into the image of His Son Jesus Christ. We must always remember that the path does not produce the change; it only puts us in the place where the change can occur. This is the way of disciplined grace.
Remind them that the Waldo Canyon Fire is the place where change can occur—that indeed, surviving that crucible is the way of disciplined grace.
 Celebration of Discipline (New York, N.Y.: Harper & Row, 1978), p. 7.
* This article first appeared in the July issue of the award-winning Colorado Catholic Herald 2012 and is adopted from O’Donnell’s, WHAT A SON NEEDS FROM HIS DAD.
About the Author
Fr. Michael O’Donnell, Ph.D., is the Chief Stewardship Officer with Catholic Charities—the social service arm of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs. Catholic Charities provides help and creates hope for people who are poor and vulnerable in our area through the efforts of a wide range of programs and services. He also serves as the Counselor Referral Coordinator for the Diocese.
As an Episcopal priest, Michael is married to Rachel, a principal with The Classical Academy, and they have two grown children—Patrick and Kayla. They have been married for over 25 years and in 1991 lost an infant daughter, Cara, to a birth defect. Home from Oz (Word) and The Oz Syndrome (Hillcrest) were books that Michael penned shortly after her death that helped him to process her early passing.
A Best-Selling author or co-author of nearly 10 books, Michael’s latest book, What a Son Needs from His Dad (Baker/Bethany House Publishers), has already–-in just a few months–-gone into its 3rd printing; and his monthly column in The Colorado Catholic Herald has just won a Catholic Press Association (National) Award for 2012.
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