the Consuming Fire

"You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the 'lord of terrible aspect', is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist's love for his work and despotic as a man's love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father's love for his child; jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes." ~ C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

I 'lightly invoked' the great spirit at age four. I had no idea Who God was when I accepted His free gift of salvation. I had the vague notion, which persisted into my college years, that He wanted me to go to heaven (for some unknown reason) and cared little about me beyond my eternal fate. I read verses about 'good works', but thought little about them, except to determine that they were not necessary for my initial salvation - as per Ephesians 2:8-9, "for by grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast." I was puzzled and irritated by the inner pull I felt to honor God with my life, and irritated still further by the social constraints of being raised in a Christian family. I carried out my sins in private, boldly still wearing the badge of Christianity in friendships sullied by my poor choices after dark and behind closed doors. Irritation was not the only emotion I felt - I was torn, broken, battered, crushed, beaten, and heart-broken by my seemingly uncontrollable desire to sin, and confused as to why it crushed me so. Was I not "free in Christ"? Freed from the burden of a destiny in hell, couldn't I do anything I wished, without fear of the future?

I wasn't free. I was bought with a price. My life turned once again one dark night when I contemplated suicide because of the blackness of my heart and my actions. Afraid it was futile, I remember kneeling by my bed (one of the first times of many that I prostrated myself physically before God as a sign of my inner brokenness) and crying out, truly crying and begging God for answers. In His amazing grace, He sent them: first my parents, loving me still despite my faults and wrong steps; my brothers, who passionately and fiercely protected me and told me that I was to be treasured, not used and discarded; my aunt and my grandmother, who asked no questions, yet knew more of the truth than I would have ever told them in words, and with quiet words and sweet silences communicated their love; my friend, who all through college persisted with me despite my depression and anger, then lived with me and supported me as I turned my life finally in a different direction. God saved my physical life from the myriad ailments that weakened me and brought me time again to that silent brink that separates life from death. And finally, He sent me to a job where I watched true suffering, bringing me perspective and a deep gratitude for His grace in sending me smaller trials. Then a husband, who loves me like the "consuming Fire" Himself, passionately, jealously, fiercely, yet quietly and gently - with a depth I didn't imagine possible. Through him, children who desire me and need me insatiably, demonstrating what it should look like to seek.

C.S. Lewis' words are so rich; he is one of the few authors whose works I read one page at a time, so that I can process and comprehend the entire meaning of his words. He says that our suffering is a sign of God's love, not His indifference. Do we take more care and pay more attention when teaching those we love or those we hate? I am learning through suffering. God is removing another curtain from before my face, and, oddly, I am finding a new layer of answers to my big questions through the experience of cancer.

Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.” This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain. Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a consuming fire. ~ Hebrews 12:25-28 exc. NLT/NIV

Consuming Fire
Fan into flame
a passion for your name
Spirit of God
fall in this place
Lord have your way
Lord have your way
with us

Come like a rushing wind
Fill us with power from on high
Now set the captives free
leave us abandoned to your praise

Lord let your glory fall
Lord let your glory fall
~ Tim Hughes, Consuming Fire