Fire can be a wonderful thing.
In winter we use it to push away the season’s cold.
In Africa we enjoy cooking meat on its hot remnants, it becoming the center piece of our social time as we have a ‘braai’ (i think some call it a barbecue).
It is an amazing force baking bricks we use to build homes & pottery we use to adorn our homes.
Being inside the fire is not nice though.
We weren’t meant to be inside the fire.
It consumes like a hungry monster everything we are in the most painful of ways.
Have you been burnt?
Wounds from burns are the worst.
They are excruciatingly painful.
They take forever to heal.
And we burn not only through physical fire.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could be inside the fire & not be affected by it.
I’m not a religious one.
Religion has disappointed me.
But God has not and so I find myself on a journey to re-think many of the perceptions I’ve held and built over decades.
Perceptions about God and faith.
On my journey I’ve been considering something which happened centuries ago. I do believe what is described in the Bible is an account of actual occurrences. Stuff that happened to real people as much as I got up this morning, made some coffee & came to work.
There were three guys, the story goes. Young guys. They were ripped away from their families. They were completely displaced to a new country with a foreign culture. They were expected to adopt this new culture, to learn & to be of service to the King of this country.
I don’t think the King was a bad guy. He just lived inside everything he grew-up with, as we so often do. For him it was nothing weird to build a statue of himself & expect his subjects to bow down before it. Worship it. It was about nationalism. About loyalty. About recognition of his role as the one who ultimately takes responsibility to keeps the country safe, to care for all its inhabitants & prosper them.
Modern day ‘kings’ still expect the same loyalty, they’re statues just take on a different form.
These three young men, however came from a different place. In their world it was not a King who took care of them, but a God.
And their loyalty was with that God.
Not because he took care of them, just because he was. A person. Someone real with whom they were actually involved. With whom they shared an existence.
And so they stand before the King as the ones who did not bow before his statue. The ones who did not prove their loyalty & gratitude. They are to be thrown into the fire. Death by fire. That they knew would be the consequence of their treason.
Yet the King does not want to go through with it.
It seems he likes these men. He encourages them. Explains to them that it is not about disloyalty to their God, it is just about loyalty to the crown.
This is his world.
This is his perception.
And they say: our God is not a figment of our imagination. He is. He can save us from your fire. But even if he doesn’t we cannot be anything but loyal to him.
Even if …
I’m astounded by their loyalty. A loyalty signifying relationship. Acceptance & understanding.
These three were ripped away from their homes.
They were taken prisoner.
They would most probably not ever again see their land of birth or their parents or their siblings or their loved ones. Maybe they were ripped away from a girlfriend whom they dreamed of marrying. Maybe they were ripped away from a prosperous future.
They were people.
They had come to this place through hardship.
Facing even more hardship as they stand before the King.
Still they are loyal.
Now that is friendship.
I pray I can be a friend like that.
The King gets mad. The ovens are over heated. They are thrown inside, so the story goes. The guards pushing them into the fire are consumed, so hot are the flames.
They are not burned.
They are not consumed.
They do not even smell of smoke.
They go inside the fire.
The fire does not affect them.
What strikes me is that their God did not save them from the fire.
He saved them from the consequences of fire.
I look at who I am and I see the same.
A father who is distant, demanding & never satisfied should produce a child who never becomes an adult and who copies this same attitude as he marries & becomes a parent.
Parents who put a price on their love, who gives it in exchange for compliance, should breed parents who trade on the same currency.
Perhaps you’ve been in the fire too.
Perhaps you’re coming out of it & not even the smell of fire is on your clothes.
We get so hypnotised by the orange licking of fire’s tongue, by the trauma of being inside it, we might not notice the absence of consequence.
I pray I can share life with a God like this.
I pray I can be to him what they were so many centuries ago – someone who remains loyal, not based on what can be obtained, but just because he is.
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