I’ve had a mentally tumultuous past couple days. I’ve had a lot of different things going through my mind. Oft, I find this is when my brain tends to kick into overdrive and blow things way out of proportion. Which I think is exactly what happened. There’s no need to feel the way I do, no need to worry what I’ve been worrying about. “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27) “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).
This section of Matthew is, as those who know me probably already know, one of my favorites. It has such a strong message both in how to live our lives and to trust in God. I am guilty of worrying. I think I probably got it from my Mom, who is such a caring, compassionate person she can’t help but think of every possible outcome of a scenario. It is a habit I need to break.
I was getting sick of worrying, so last night I went for a long hard run. I was exhausted at the end of it, and I felt great. I was sweaty, my mouth was dry, my lungs burned, and my legs quivered. My “self” did not want to run. I forced it to. This is akin to me saying, “Brain, shut up. You’re being ridiculous.” I then turned off the computer, turned off the music, and all the other distractions that have become so assimilated into our lives. I collected my candles all onto the coffee table, and lit them, one by one. This is how, at the very moment, I am writing this blog post by. I even have the screen brightness only at the first notch. No sounds other than the soft tapping of the keys.
Fire has a primal, unexplainable beauty to it. Humankind has done so many absolutely amazing things; we’ve developed societies (a bigger feat than most would admit), we’ve built the pyramids, we’ve built the great wall of China, we’ve sent people to the moon, we’ve split the atom, we’ve built skyscrapers, the sheer fact that we have devised artificial brains inside of a microprocessor. These are absolutely astounding feats that, until they happened, were practically fantasies. Yet, despite being surrounded by these amazing feats of humankind, rarely do any of them captivate and transfix our attention like fire.
I used to be very insecure in myself. I was tortured in the caste system of cliques in Jr. High and High School. I genuinely believed that the people in such and such group were completely different than me. The cool kids were completely different than me. The jocks were completely different than me. As I’ve grown up, I’ve come to see that it’s not true. There are so many elements in the world around us that impact every single one of us the same way. A common bond between all of humanity that removes our differences and makes us brothers and sisters. We are not so different.
Fire is one of those things. I can say with near utmost confidence that each and every pair of eyes that gaze on this text on a computer screen have been locked to the flame on a candle at some earlier time. Those same eyes have also probably stared, unblinking, at a fire in a firepit, watering from the smoke. Fire has a near-mystical ability to free the mind, to remove the world around us and let our thoughts drift through philosophy. Fire has the talent of making us equals.
This should be no surprise to us that fire seems to touch us at some deeper level than hydrocarbon combustion should. Numerous times in the Bible, God uses fire as a display to us, his people. When Moses encounters God on Horeb, an “angel of the LORD appeared to him in the flames of fire from within a bush.” (Exodus 3:2) As Moses led the Israealites out of Egypt, “the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light…” (Exodus 13:21) When Moses leads the people out to Mt. Sinai to meet with God, it was “covered in smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire.” (Exodus 19:18) Examples go on and on. Fire is more than the science behind it.
Fire is a part of our soul. We are entranced and transfixed by it because it is a part of who God is, and as such, a part of ourselves. Most importantly, fire can keep our eyes occupied and mouth closed long enough for us to finally pay attention to those other holes in our head, our ears. Listening, as I have discovred, is truly a great gift given to us. There is so much to learn through those vibrations that hammer against our eardrums. Listening also encourages thinking. Not the quick, hurried firing of neurons that goes on when we synthesize our thoughts into speech, but rather, a calmer, more collected thought process. It is hard to be pensive with a wagging tounge.
And this is what I’m getting at. Fires make us quiet. Fires allow us to think and to listen. Fire is a part of who God is, and thus, a part of who we are. Shouldn’t it be fairly obvious then that the effects that fire has on us are things that God wants so desperately for us to have? Listening, and the ability to sit quietly and think, are truly gifts from God. And much needed gifts. If one has not sat in silence in a while, and attempts to, it’s amazing how many sources of noise will make themselves apparent. It’s everywhere, and it’s infectious.
Now, this has been somewhat tangent to what I’m getting at. I’ve been working on listening. My brain has been stupid lately, and I’ve been doing my best to make it behave. Someone who continually makes me rethink my relationship wiht God wrote to me today, “I hope. . .you find peace, God’s amazing, crazy peace.” That really struck a chord with me. God’s peace is amazing, and it is crazy. It’s crazy both in that God’s peace is so ridiculously counter-cultural it’s not even funny, and it’s crazy that after everything that humanity’s relationship with God has been through, He still offers it to us! If there wasn’t a more obvious reason to be thankful…
I mulled this over for a bit, and I responded saying that God’s peace was probably right in front of me, and that I just needed to recognize it. I needed to listen to God. Sure enough, once I accpeted the fact that I need to be able to recognize God’s offering of peace, it showed up right away. When I got home from work tonight and opened my mailbox, there was a card from one of my best friends. Contained inside the card were words that offered comfort to a discomforted soul. It immediately brought a smile to my face, and it immediately made me realize that God is looking out for us. He, like any good father, will do the best to protect and comfort his children. Jasmine, thank you very, very much for the card. It means a lot, even if you feel that the words you wrote don’t.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. This has been a long and meandering blog post. I’d like to leave you with this challenge. Find a bunch of candles and put them on a table. Make sure it’s night time. Light them. Turn off the lights. Turn off the noises around you to the best of your ability. Find a good book, no Tom Clancey, no Dan Brown, no Michael Chrichton. Find something that challenges, that encourages you to rethink how you view yourself or how you view the world around you or how you view God or how you view your place in this world. Sit on the floor. Read slowly. Stop every page or so, stare at the flames on the candle, and digest what you’ve read. Think about it. For as long as you feel you need to, and then continue reading.
I think you’ll find that the time will go by quicker than you think, and you’ll discover that hearing the silence is an experience that is fundamentally enjoyable. 🙂