We live in North Carolina where we rent a house. The house has some flaws (poor insulation, windows that need to be updated, things like that), but it’s a rental, so we make due.
But, interestingly, one of the bigger assets has turned out to be the working fireplace.
Having grown up in the Northeast, it is not just a little ironic that it took moving south for me to live in a place with a fireplace. Nevertheless, in the 17 months that we’ve lived here, I’ve pretty much mastered the ability to start and maintain a cozy fire.
Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way about fires:
- despite the idyllic nature fires have in movies, they require far more effort in real life;
- even when you think you’ve gotten it down to a science, starting a fire can still cause me fits of frustration;
- without enough kindling, starting a fire becomes a major challenge;
- even after you’ve got a roaring fire going, the flames can dwindle and smolder without enough attention;
- rarely does a single log provide warmth or burn for long;
- if you get caught up in other things and don’t keep a check on it, the fire will burn out;
- reigniting a burned out fire takes as much effort as starting the original fire required;
- too much poking around on a fire can actually cause it to burn out.
As you read those, do you see the relationship parallels I did as I was writing them?
But beyond that more obvious connection, I have found myself musing about the metaphor as a flame or a fire as an illustration for faith.
The idea that we want to burn with a fire for Jesus.
The idea that we want to set the world on fire.
The idea that we don’t want to be a flame, but a raging fire.
The idea that too often we seem lukewarm in our faith.
As if the fire has gone out.
And I cannot help but think, as I consider my own faith and as I tend fires in my fireplace, that faith is work. It requires something of me.
I believe faith is a gift.
But I also believe that faith, once claimed, requires my participation. It demands my effort if I am to hold fast to it. It needs my tending if I am to grow in it.
I believe even more that faith cannot exist in a vacuum, as a single log. It burns hotter when it is shared, when the logs are stacked together.
I believe that faith, like fire, requires attention or it will dwindle. It will fade.
I also believe that a raging fire is not the only option. In fact, it is only when a fire has burned consistently through the day that it burns hotter, that heat radiates and really warms. So it is with faith. So it is that we draw others to Jesus. With our warmth. With our kindness. With our consistent reflection of Jesus in the world by our actions. By our choices. By our words.
But be warned. Faith is not just about the warm and fuzzy. It is not just about the cozy feelings.
Because more than anything else I believe that faith, like fire, is dangerous. Sparks can fly when faith burns hot. We will sometimes need to make difficult choices. We will likely get burned because of some of our choices. We may offend because of our choices. Even when we are kind. Even when we are gentle. Even when we speak the truth in love.
Because, faith, like fire, is not necessarily safe. Nor is it idyllic. It is not without risk.
But it is worth it. It is always worth it.