Embers are strangely beautiful things.
We had an impromptu bonfire the other night, enjoying the happy crackling of the blaze and the exhilarating, whooshing roar of a marshmallow turning into a torch. But although I enjoy eating s’mores, although I enjoy being loud and laughing about it, neither of those are the best parts of the fire. The most lovely part is just sitting, still in body and mind, watching the flames run and the heat ebb.
And perhaps the most beautiful flow of all its life is when it gets down to embers. The flames long-gone, the warmth and depth of wood-fire-smoke becoming a part of you, these embers still glow and dance long into the night. Ever-fluttering light, as if a thousand heartbeats were jumping inside, every now and again a single flame popping up and dashing lightly back into another hiding spot, as if a thousand tiny faeries of heat were dancing inside, and skitter across the blackened log to return to their revelries.
It’s beautiful. But the thing is, you can’t see it when the fire is bright.
In the loud rushing of all the energy and heat of a roaring blaze, this gentle beauty can’t be seen. It’s when all dies down, it’s when the apparently boring, mundane times come, that these most shine. It’s in the dark that embers shine best.
And, honestly, these are the times that are the most useful. Embers are what you use for cooking, because they give off a more steady heat. When you barbeque, you need a slow, consistent burn, that faithfully over time gets the job done.
But in watching embers, I wonder if sometimes we view the ebbs of our life wrongly.
Because we accept this idea that the only important times are the loud revivals, the ecstatic church camps, the bright, whooshing flame. And yes, those are amazing, powerful, awe-inspiring events which we praise God for. But in staring at their bright flame, I wonder if we don’t sometimes blind ourselves to the worth of the quieter moments as well.
Maybe just as productive in heaven’s eyes are the hours of patient work, the days of quiet serving, the years of a faithful life. This is the strangely beautiful thing, a life lived with power ever-present beneath the surface, popping up when needed, dashing lightly to do the Father’s will.
Because a life lived that way is a life that can ignite thousands of heartbeats, though they know it not.
Yes, please, go do your big hard things, go into every remote region of the world. The Gospel tells us to. But also don’t forget to pick up your cross every day, to die to yourself, to faithfully love and serve one another. Because the Gospel tells us to.
Because even embers, when breathed upon by His Spirit, can reflect the glory of God.
His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord. (Matthew 25:21)
To catch up on the rest of the Life’s Reflections series: