|Tending the Fire
The intensity of the struggle is increasing
between the forces of light and darkness,
warmth and coolness, and being awake and sleeping.
The days are getting longer.
We are getting teased with the warmer temperatures.
We are feeling more alive.
However, the residue of the long winter clings to us.
Habits are hard to break.
One of the dangers we face
is falling back to sleep (losing our fire).
One of the common themes
I have observed through the years as a therapist
is how quickly individuals can fall back to sleep
once they have been awakened.
This is especially true of marriages.
Many couples seek out counseling
when they are in a deep winter journey.
They are held together by a few fragile threads.
During the therapy process,
some melting begins to occur.
Temperatures begin to rise.
There is some movement toward warmth in the relationship.
And then, something happens.
I have seen this time and again.
Couples think they are on their way again and stop therapy.
It is just a short period of time
before they are right back where they started
and many times even worse.
The coolness reasserts itself.
Sadly, for many, they don’t make it through this transition period
and fall back to sleep.
This period of time between the ending of winter
and the beginning of spring varies with individuals.
If it is our desire to be awake,
then we must enter into the struggle to be alive.
The storms in March can be fierce.
Some of us, for one reason or another,
don’t want the struggle,
and fall back to sleep inside the cocoon.
Those of us who endure and engage
these violent swings of weather
eventually break forth into the arms of spring.
The storms of March can be destructive.
Old patterns are hard to break.
Establishing new habits require some heated desire.
It is common to find people stuck in this transition for years.
The analogy of starting a fire is apropos here.
Some try to start a fire with a log and forget the kindling.
Some get the fire going with kindling
and then throw on a log and it dies.
Tending fire is an art form.
First, we create the sparks (that is a journey in itself),
then direct them toward the dry kindling to get a flame.
(Maybe the kindling is wet, and that is why we can’t get the fire going.)
Gently, so gently, we blow on the kindling
and place tiny sticks to build the flame,
all the while watching not to smother the fire.
Fires need oxygen. They need some space.
They need fuel.
Over a period of time we keep building
the fire with larger kindling
until we finally can put a little log in the flames.
Eventually, we have a roaring fire in which to cook
our food and keep warm.
Tending the fire in our hearts
means to pay attention to its movement,
serve it, watch over it,
be ready to act if any threat arises and be present to it.
The golden thread that enters our lives needs this kind of care.
Otherwise, we will fall back to sleep.
The Holy Spirit longs to help us in the matter of tending.
“He tends His flock like a shepherd;
He gathers the lambs in His arms
and carries them close to His heart;
He gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11).
Again, our receptivity is paramount.