At some point in your Christian walk, it's likely that you've been to a retreat or a program or read a book or heard a sermon or worshiped to a new song or been called to a new mission or something that really stoked your holy fire. Something that really set you ablaze all over again with the passion and the presence of God.
Most of us judge our faith by these moments, by our ability to have these moments and by our ability to sustain them. This is the kind of raging holy fire that we want, and we think that this is the best that God has to offer, the best of what faith is meant to be.
I'm not so sure.
When you think about it, that's not really what fires do. Purposeful fires don't just rage all the time. They aren't roaring all the time, not most of them. Certainly, there's a place for the raging holy fire, the kind of fire that catches in its flames anything close enough to conduct heat. It's a fire that burns with passion and purpose, and yes, it often reveals to us the best of who we are called to be in Christ. It's a fire that burns with calling, setting us aflame for missions or Kingdom or counseling or preaching or outreach or prayer or whatever.
But most of our fires aren't raging, and that shouldn't really bother us, as long as there's still a spark of a flame kept alive.
Some fires are more controlled burns. Big, beautiful controlled burns that call us into community, like bonfires. These are the kind of holy fires we create community around, the kinds of things that draw us to one another to share stories, roast marshmallows, and sing songs. They're the kind of fires where joy is wrapped in sacred smoke, and it's just good.
Some fires are used to set new things in place. Think of a kiln. It's entire purpose is to set raw materials into fixed forms, and so there is something "becoming" inside that flame. We burn these holy fires, too, in seasons of transition or in seasons of change. When something new is taking place, our best holy fire is a kiln fire; it helps us to do this new thing with God's glory in mind.
Some fires are for cooking. Their work is to slowly draw out the richest flavors of any dish and to finish with something that satisfies our gnawing hunger. Cooking fires are generally lower, generally taking a bit longer to do their work. These are some of our holy fires, as well. They draw out all the flavors of the season that we're in and give us something to satisfy our souls.
Some fires are burning just to keep us warm. These are the lowest fires, but those that touch at our place of deepest need. They are quiet little flames, but without them, we could not survive. Sometimes, our holy fires burn like this. Just a low flame. Just enough to keep us going, just enough to keep us warm. Just enough to keep us from tucking into a little ball and turning inward. Just enough to remind us we aren't alone in the elements.
Most of us, we want the raging holy fires of that jazzed-up faith that's just been stoked hotter and hotter like Nebuchadnezzar's furnace. But that's not all that faith is made of. It's not even, I don't think, what the best faith is made of. There are different fires for different reasons, for different seasons. And it's not about how your fire burns but whether or not it's burning at all.
Maybe you're in a raging fire season. That's great. But maybe you're in a "keeping warm" kind of fire season. Want to know something? That's great, too. There is something incredibly wonderful about having a fire that does nothing but remind you that God is still God, God is still good, and God still loves you, no matter what.
The question, then, is not, how do we figure out how to keep our holy fires raging? Rather, the question is, what is our holy fire burning for right now?
And then, settle into that season and feed that flame.