“The little strength remaining in the soul is like a spark hidden in ashes” Thomas a Kempis
Our TV fireplace with it’s warm orange glow and crackling logs doesn’t change the room temperature, but with a little imagination you can almost believe there is heat. Add a few candles and some background music and you create an instant cozy room with no smoke!
In the hearth of the soul there is a God-like spark but it is buried in the ashes of our fallen self. Unless God introduces his holy fire into the hearth, there is little that is truly God-like within me. What we need is a glowing flame that burns with love toward God and warms the whole house. Thankfully God has not left us without hope. It is said about Jesus that “ a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.” Isaiah 42:3 God is carefully watching over us to protect the small fire within and rekindle it.
When the fire lies dormant and all that’s left is a “spark in the ashes,” it’s tempting to substitute real flames for something fake. It is hard to admit when my spiritual life has been reduced to burning embers and my human efforts have produced so little effect. If I resort to faking it and imagining the feeling of being warm, I can make a good impression but the fruit of genuine love will be lacking. I can visualize heat, but when my prayers are cold and my heart is self-absorbed, no one is warmed. It’s the placebo effect.
Spiritual fervor is never at its lowest as when the hype is at its highest. The thrill of the sense world blinds me. With self-satisfaction I underestimate the frailty that lies behind the curtain of my pretensions. The spiritual crumbs of an emotional high won’t satisfy my deeper cravings. God, by your grace re-light a holy fire. I offer myself on the altar of my heart as a whole burnt offering.
The prophet Elijah called down fire from heaven, but first he called upon God’s people to choose who they will serve. (1 Kings 18:38) The choice to be made is between the selfish desires of our own will and God’s desires, the will of the flesh and the will the Spirit. When that choice is settled and a holy fire is rekindled there will be a fresh awareness of the light and heat of God’s presence. In the heat of this fire, new character is forged and impurities are removed.
Lord, you are the fire that burns without consuming. We know the fire is catching when there is smoke and tears. This smoke is the loss of our old nature and it can be a painful process. We are not, however, so consumed by His fire as to lose ourselves completely. God you do not annihilate us in consuming us, you liberate us.
“Oh! Fire above every fire, because You are the only Fire who burns without consuming, and consume all sin and self-love found in the soul, not afflicting her, but fattening her with insatiable love.” Catherine of Sienna, Dialogues