Thursday, July 26, 2012

Stay Close to the Fire

Fire captivated me as a child.  Many cold winter nights found me sitting in front of the fireplace for as long as possible before having to go to bed.  It was a warm, safe place where nothing else in life seemed to bother me.  Sitting Indian style in my pajamas, I was awed and comforted by the flames, wanting to be nowhere else.      
Fire continues to woo me as an adult.  During a recent summer, I served at the stables of a camp in northeast Wisconsin.  One night, I rode horseback with a group of others deep into the neighboring Nicolet National Forest, where we spent most of the night around a fire. 
Late in the evening, after everyone went to sleep, I kept the fire burning as the stars grew brighter and the sounds of the night came to life.  I reclined on one of those fancy lawn chairs that have a leg rest, and nestled close to the flames.  The temperature dropped quickly that night—not to the point of freezing, but enough to cause a chill.
After adding plenty of logs to the blaze, all was well.  I gazed into the heavens, where the stars steadily increased in brightness.  I daydreamed of the past, present, and future, with anticipation for what was to come.  I was thankful for the experience of riding horses, for being in the outdoors, for the people I was with, and for all God had done in my life.  I was in awe of my Creator—the vastness of the skies and stars, the heat of the flames, the wonder of all that surrounded me.  Slowly but surely, comforted and consumed by all this, I began to drift off into sleep.
It wasn’t long after, however, that I woke, shivering.  In my sleep, I had shifted in my chair and was no longer facing the warmth of the fire.  The fire itself had shrunk and was in need of more logs.  The majority of the wood was softwood, which burns quickly.  Discontented, I looked around in the dark, pestered by thoughts of bears and coyotes, the latter of which could be heard howling in the distance every now and then.  I knew I had to get up and get more wood and maybe even retire to my tent.  The stars no longer grabbed my attention.  The peace I had enjoyed earlier seemed to dissipate. 
In all this lies a great parallel to the spiritual life: One must stay close to the fire in order to stay warm, and the fire also needs tending.  In other words, the closer we stay to God, the more we are consumed by him.  The more we are consumed by him, the more peace and direction we experience, the more fiery and life giving our faith is, and the more people we influence.  And all this takes some effort on our part.
We do not need a wild transformation story to experience this.  We just need to draw near.

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