by Hannah Burgdorf
That spark. The one so many people dream of. The one I’ve dreamt of all my life. “Spark” is a good word for it. Delicate. Brief. Tiny. Weak…
Powerful. Powerful enough to start a wildfire.
But why? Why does something capable of such strength, such intensity in one instance last only the briefest of moments in another?
“It only takes a spark to get a fire going,” right? Well, not really. I mean, have you ever tried to start a fire? Whoever wrote that song apparently never did (or he was really good at it). Maybe he was inspired by a headline of a forest fire started by a stray spark. I don’t know. But a spark alone is not enough to start a fire.
For one thing, a spark by itself is bound to go out. Once it has burned up its tiny grain of fuel it simply disappears. Further fuel is absolutely necessary. Sometimes, as in the hypothetical forest fire above, a spark simply lands in the right place at the right time. Sometimes it ignites an explosion. Sometimes it requires coaxing to grow it from spark to flame to blaze.
I cannot count the number of times I have carefully arranged tinder and kindling, coaxing a fire to life and adding more substantial pieces of wood as it grew strong enough for them. With the fire blazing and beginning to heat our house I continue about my day. I get involved in various responsibilities, hobbies, and distractions. And I fail to add wood to the fire as it needs it.
Sometimes that failure is a result of pure forgetfulness. Other times, it is a matter of putting the task off—thinking I’m close to a stopping point in my current project and will take care of the fire as soon as I’m done. And sometimes I just plain don’t want to make the effort. Maybe because I’m in a lazy mood. Or because we’ve run out of wood inside the house and I’ll have to bundle up and go out into driving, icy snow to get more. And if my goal is warmth and comfort, why would I want to get cold and wet?
And so the fire dies out. Maybe not entirely. With some work I may be able to stir it up, to breathe new life into the embers and the kindling I’ve had to add once more. Depending on how low I’ve let the fire get, whether or not the wood I used before was a type that leaves good coals, and how dry the new wood is (or isn’t), it can take a lot of work to get it going again.
William Booth said, “The tendency of fire is to go out; watch the fire on the altar of your heart. Anyone who has tended a fireplace knows that it needs to be stirred up occasionally.”
Which brings me back to the topic of my heart, albeit not in the spiritual sense Booth meant, but in the romantic sense. It brings me back to the topic of that spark I’ve desired for so long. From time to time I have experienced such a spark. I have reveled in the thrill it gives. I have sorrowed in its briefness.
But some sparks I have had to smother. Especially when encouraging them contradicts God’s laws. Such sparks can be like trick candles on a birthday cake. You may think you’ve gotten them under control only to have them re-ignite. Such sparks require vigilance to “take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
Come to think of it, I suppose all sparks require that same vigilance. We must not allow our thoughts to fuel sparks that ought to be snuffed out. And we must keep our thoughts from pouring water on a fire we ought to be tending.
That is the spark I continue to hope for. The one I can take an oath to fuel until death doth part me from the one I am sworn to.
And when I finally enter into that commitment I must be careful to avoid the pitfalls that so frequently cause me to allow the fire at home to go out— other responsibilities, hobbies, and distractions. I must be willing to work at it—even when I don’t feel like it. And I must take William Booth’s advice to keep an eye on the fire of my heart, stirring it up as needed.
In both the romantic and the spiritual sense.
II Corinthians 10:5b — We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
II Timothy 1:6-7 — I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
James 3:5-6 — The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
It only takes a spark to get a fire going
And soon all those around can warm up in the glowing
That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it
You’ll spread His love to everyone, you’ll want to pass it on.
–Kurt Kaiser, 1969