The boiling point

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
~ The Solid Rock, Edward Mote, 1797

1. Vapor & heat roll off the sap pot in profile in the afternoon sun.

March is maple syrup time in Wisconsin, as the snow recedes from the dappled ravine behind the house. The sun seeps through the bare branches and flits over the deep roots of the sugar maples that stand forgotten in the forest during the long winter. In a flurry of activity, we drill, and pound taps, and collect the clear, slightly sweet life blood of the trees. Sap. Then the boiling, evaporating off the excess and concentrating the sugar. The rich, deep brown syrup that results lasts us all year long, usually until the following January.

I feel as though I've been in the giant vat, at the boiling point, for the past year. My dross is being brought to the surface. I am being purified, condensed, refined. Cancer is the fire under the vat, raising the stakes of life - and death - and forcing me to confront the hidden corners of the soul that I've left linger for so long. Crisis is what takes us out of the ordinary and makes us face the deepest parts of ourselves that we hide from sight. Even our sight. It seems so silly to me, in retrospect, that I've ever tried to hide self from self. Yet I know, deep down, there are still many ways that I am hiding. Though I strive for truthfulness and authenticity as I walk each day as wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, I won't really be laid truly bare until that moment in heaven, when I stand before Christ and hear my name read from the Book of Life. I've often wondered about that moment: will I cry tears of shame when He asks about this sin, or that one? Will I cry tears of thankfulness and utter, complete humility as I realize the fullness of His sacrifice for me at the cross?

I am always thankful, after the fact, when I look back at these times of refining fire in my life. I feel more prepared to face my Savior in heaven because I have faced Him in new ways here on earth. There is a verse that always comes to mind as I ponder salvation and what it means to come to a more complete realization of Christ's gift. My salvation is a "done deal" - completed when He hung on the cross, and realized when I first believed in that fact at age 5. Yet I won't understand it fully until I stand in His presence. So what does this verse (Philippians 2:12-13) mean? ...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Continue to work it out? It's already accomplished - and "not by works of righteousness which I have done, but by His glory He saved us"! (Titus 3:5) Yet, when I receive a gift, that isn't supposed to be the end of the story, is it? I'm sure the Giver hopes that I will use the gift, understand it's import, be thankful for it and be changed by it. And that is where the "boiling point" takes me...a new level of understanding and thankfulness.

That's where I am today. A new level. Coming down from the boil. Still at a simmer. Still evaporating. Still refining. Still praising God for cancer and - even more merciful - good news.