Man on Fire, or The Accidental Arsonist

Matthew 3:11

We homo sapiens have an odd ambivalence toward fire. We are simultaneously drawn to it and afraid of it. The very element that causes widespread destruction also ensures our dominace over other species. Thus, we constantly engage to harness and master the energy of the flame.

Personally, I’ve experienced less than stellar success when igniting flammables. As I have previously demonstrated, money was scarce at our house. Consequently, I had to learn to be my own repairman for most projects. I have also previously demonstrated a woeful lack of expertise in such skills. Once, while attempting to coax a stubborn carburetor into functioning again, I trickled a bit of petrol into it; the gas in the bowl ignited. The entire top of my motor was instantly on fire. Fortunately, I knew not to put water on it. A nearby towel sacrificed itself to save my engine.

On two separate occassions, I experienced a brief memory loss and managed to incinerate a push mower by the same process. Not having a fire extinguisher handy, a towel and a sack of flour aptly prevented damage to any other personage or possession. (Actually, I singed my eyebrows.)


I once attempted to burn weeds from a large rock pile on our property. I had seen my father and numerous farmers carry out this act with splendid results. My Achilles’ Heel is spillage. In the process of dousing the weeds, I inadvertently splattered the legs of my blue jeans. When I tossed the match, the weeds and my pant legs were immediately engulfed in flames. I was suddenly full of the Holy Ghost and dancing up a storm. Now that I think about it, this probably explains why my children get excited when they see me carrying a portable gas can. They usually shout warnings at me, as they are vacating the premises.

Between cars, lawn mowers, weeds, and charcoal grills, I have been baptized by fire numerous times. In scripture, fire is often used as a metaphor, communicating the various processes God uses in our life to rid us of dross, those impurities which hinder our ability to love and follow him completely.  Sometimes the flame is of our own doing, mistakes with more severe consequences than we intended. Sometimes the fire is divine in origin and completely beyond our control. In either case, those temporary things in our life, which we cling to so tightly, tend to fall back to their proper perspective in the midst of the flame. Only that which is most precious remains.

According to Jesus, his followers should expect fire in their lives. That does not mean we should feel compelled to carry matches and a gas can, torching everything in sight. It does mean we should strive to see flammable situations from a heavenly view, discerning what is truly important and treasuring only what is eternal. Everything else can be replaced…even eyebrows.


Published in: on March 14, 2018 at 2:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

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