Charcoal Fire

As I’ve mentioned before, moving to Nashville was a difficult and weighty decision for numerous reasons, but primarily because of the regret and disappointment that had become synonymous with the city. For several years, I couldn’t even think about Nashville or music in general without feeling a physical ache. I suppose that’s what regret feels like, that dropping sensation you feel in your stomach while your heart rises to your throat as you try to choke back tears.

It’s comforting to know that I’m not alone in that. In John 18, we read about the arrest of Christ. Taking place at night to avoid protests of the crowd and maintain secrecy, we see that Jesus is in the high priest’s chambers and Peter is standing in the courtyard, warming himself around a charcoal fire (verse 18). This is the sight of his denials of Christ (three in total), as Christ had forewarned Peter about during dinner earlier that evening.

Scan ahead to John 21. Jesus has been resurrected and had already appeared to the disciples (see John 20). John 21 tells of another occurrence where Jesus spent time with seven of the disciples (including Peter) post-resurrection. Draw your attention to verse 9:

“When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread.”

Jump forward to verses 15-17, in which Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” You can feel the ache in Peter’s heart are he replies, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.” (verse 17). In that moment, Peter knew that Jesus was referring to his denial of Him back in the courtyard; Jesus redeems each denial by asking Peter three times to declare his love for Christ.

Allow yourself to think for a moment of the emotions that Peter must have felt as he approached the fire that Jesus had made for their breakfast. Charcoal fire. In that moment, could you imagine the emotions that must have welled up within Peter, as he recalled what took place around a charcoal fire days before? If it were me, I don’t know how I could stand to sit around that fire for five minutes, let alone a full meal!

Peter loved Jesus so much that he was willing to sit in his regret and discomfort long enough to allow Jesus to redeem it. Do I? Am I willing to return to the places of deep regret and disappointment, to sit in those excruciating emotions long enough to allow Jesus to enter in? Am I willing to fully embrace my past, not for the sake of tormenting myself, but to experience full redemption?

I cannot live in the abundant freedom of Christ until I’m willing to return to the places of shame and failure with my Savior. Until I can sit in that place and allow Jesus to lovingly touch each wound, I will be stuck in lukewarm freedom.

Charcoal is the best agent for fire because of its ability to burn and sustain fire at a higher temperature than normal wood. That concept resonates, as we all know those places and wounds in our lives that hurt deeper than others. There are mistakes we’ve made that are painful, but easier to admit and talk about than others. I need to invite Jesus into the more shallow wounds, of course, but until I bring Him to the “charcoal pain”, that thing/event/person of the past that haunts me and seems unmentionable, I cannot walk in His abundance.

Will I allow 2018 to be the year of the abundant life that He has for me? Jesus is already sitting at my charcoal fire, waiting for me to join Him so He can fully heal and redeem it – will I sit down?

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