The Tree And The Fire

Guest post from Neal Hager, singer/songwriter.

The other night I climbed into my eight year old son’s bed, just as we do every night, to start the process of going to bed. I use the word process because going to bed for him is a multi-step event which ultimately culminates in a prayer and his catch phrase send off. “Goodnight Dad! That’s a 1000 and 55 hugs and kisses. I love you and you’re the only and best dad ever. Tell my mom that twice!” Every night the same thing. All that being said, before we can start the process of getting to that send off, he is allowed a question.


In many ways that question turns out to be the most important and educational part of my son’s day. He asks the most brilliant questions like how can God be big enough to have the whole universe in his hands but still be small enough to be inside my heart? I love this time with him, and the other night was no exception. He has been asking for over a year now about our ability to hear God’s voice. His fundamental question always comes back to “Why can’t I hear God like I can hear you?” I am always quick to tell him that adults much older and wiser than I have wrestled with this for hundreds of years. We talk about my experiences hearing God’s call and even some of my more charismatic days experiencing gifts of the spirit. The other night, however, God really hit me with something to share with him on this topic.

I told Jack that we are often like a tree or at least wood as it can be used in relation to fire. When you peel back the bark for the first time and we are new Christians we can be white and alive in appearance and because we are so exposed in our newness it can be easy to hear God. As time goes by God begins the process of refining us and putting us through the fire. This may happen several times in life but it is almost always tough to endure and feel like a dark period where we can’t always hear him. I told him that as pieces of wood we are being burned into something more like a piece of coal. That coal is dark and dirty and good for only one thing, more fire. As our life of constant refinement goes on and we choose to endure, that lump of coal burns until it is white through and through. His eyes lit up as he realized first that coal came from wood and also the connection with how the tree started. One thing we discussed was how the coal that burns white is so much hotter and more usable than the tree was when we first pulled the bark off.

The journey into hearing and listening to God’s voice is often painful and hard to endure. If we are patient and allow Christ to press in on us we will eventually return to that place where we can more easily hear from him. We will not always burn white hot in our lives. We will not always rest with the validation of hearing God loud and clear. Instead we must embrace the process of refinement and know that God understands we cannot hear him. He is leading anyway.

Question: Are you allowing God to refine you?

If you would like to follow Neal, you can find him online at

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