In the spirit of a fire side chat, I’d like you to pull up a chair with me, near the hearth. Come a little closer…that’s it.
Do you feel the heat?
Can you hear the crackle of burning wood, smell the faint char, see the flames flapping, flickering up into the air? Wood consumed into brilliant red embers? Who among us wouldn’t enjoy a little hot cocoa, a good book, a chat with a trusted friend? Place that picture into your imagination, feel its warmth, know its invitation to deeply breathe and rest, to smile, or pause in wistful silence. Being close to the fire matters, sometimes what God’s recipe is to steady our equilibrium, to fasten our gaze, to deepen our roots in Him.
But I’m not talking about literal fire, real hot cocoa, or any senses of this world. I am speaking about God as Fire, called consuming in Scripture. Strong enough to save, wise enough to direct us, and graceful in knowing our deepest darkness, our secrets, our excuses, our wavering, and our doubts, holding all of it near to Him, without us combusting.
When I explain the Bible on a global scale to students I say things like, the old testament is the story of God, the Psalms the heart of God, the proverbs the wisdom of God, etc. But when I come to what we fondly call the minor prophets, I have always stumbled a bit, because the only descriptor I can give is the fire of God. In these books, set within the 400 years of silence, we see God as Revivalist, Judge and Lover, and we feel the heat of Him as Fire. I am at a loss because, while we see Him as Fire, He just doesn’t speak. He is silent, having forecast the changing of all time somewhere in future events, He rests His vocal chords, and the people of those millenniums are left to wonder, scratch their heads, plead, do any manner of human incantation and spiritual exercise, all to no avail. They do not hear a thing!
So, I ask myself this morning as I turn a leaf on 2018, and begin to set my heart on pilgrimage for 2019, what are you saying God, to me about silence and fire?
Could God be showing a side of Himself, by revealing a side of us that sorely needs the warmth of that Fire? Does He want me to sit with Him in silence, to watch, listen, smell; use every one of my senses in not so much explaining the nature of the fire, but just feeling the warmth? Enjoying the ambiance that fire produces around me, calling others for a cup of our favorite, sitting with one another, and perhaps saying not a word, just feeling the heat of that hearth, the fire of God? We have become a people able to sit long enough to feel heat, but not long enough to see the embers, smell the char, hear the sound licking flames upon timber. Our restlessness causes us to put our hands near, rub them with a relish, and then wheel back around and ‘take care of business.’
For me this is the sine qua non, the non-negotiable, necessary thing, out from which comes all expression of faith, all tangible residual joy, and all power to stand against the enemy of the Fire.
If I have learned anything in forty years walking with Christ (Jan 79’), it’s that in order for me to hear Him, I’ve got to be near the fire, and quiet, not so much trying to understand fire’s chemistry, the scientific and irreducible atoms of heat molecularly exploding into something that consumes, but just sitting with Fire, and holding out my hands to receive, cocking my head ever so slightly to listen, and enjoying why He has created me.
This morning was special. With a cup of Joe, and a beautiful sunrise, something happened unexplainable, at least in rational terms. I felt and knew the fire. I didn’t hear a thing. But I knew something in a deeper place than ever before, as if He used my silence, my patience, my willingness to come and enjoy the hearth, to place a truth irrevocably into my spirit. I hastily wrote it out in the form of a poem, and it may not make any sense to you, but it brought a smile to my face. I’ll leave you with the final stanza….
“When I try to see you through the maddening haze,
May love bathe, a virgin, before her Lover’s gaze.”