The fire crackled and leapt over the faux logs. The room was still and silent. One of my favorite spots on Earth.
A day at the spa on a Wednesday in July was a first for me, but a good friend at work and I decided we were long overdue for a break from the frenzy at the office. I felt tension begin to melt from the outset as I sat in the steam room and took deep breaths in the hot foggy silence. Then we stretched out on oversized lounges in the fireplace room before our treatments with a cup of tea and a fuzzy blanket (because even though it’s 100 degrees in Houston, the fireplace room hovers around 68 degrees year round).
Yet even after our rest and the treatments began, I felt a heaviness. My spine felt squeezed from phantom pressure. My mind still raced. Then, in the middle of my most relaxing treatment, I felt this overwhelming urge to burst out crying. You hear that massage releases physical toxins from your body, but I’ve never heard about emotional toxins.
Still, I couldn’t get past the feeling that something I’d held on to was ready to release. We finished a light lunch peppered with hilarious conversation, and returned to the fireplace room for a few more quiet moments. I was transfixed by the fire. There, in the center of the dim room, crackled bright flames framed by large ivory bricks and a heavy wooden mantle. The “logs” lying along the grate held the exact same shape and form as they had when we arrived that morning. The fire rose like orange liquid on all sides.
Everything came together. I had been holding onto a lot. You see, in addition to a fair amount of frenzy in my own life, a number of my friends have gone through some dark places in the past week or two. Miscarriage. Marriage on the brink. Death of a best friend. Teenager moving out. Loss of a parent. I had prayed with and for each of them but apparently had held onto the pain. As if that would help them.
I started seeing that log as a visual for all of these burdens. Instead of allowing my prayers to rise like the fire, and then trusting God to bring peace and comfort and understanding and clarity, I sat like that log and tried take on some of the pain in an unhelpful empathy exercise. They didn’t know. It didn’t help them one bit. It only meant that in my own human confusion about why certain things happen, I failed to trust God has a plan and a purpose.
As I took each of those losses and burdens and released them to the only One who can do anything to help, I felt utterly relaxed. I unwound immediately. Pressure relieved. Mind stilled. Burden shared.
I also saw the other side of that fire analogy. What if, when the fires of life assail us, we do not burn up? We feel the heat. We smell the fire. But we trust that He is there, even in the biggest blaze, and we are not consumed. I don’t know why the things that happened to ones I loved happened. I may never know. But I believe in a God that calls us precious and promises to keep the flames from setting us ablaze.
Whether you are in the fire, or carrying others heartbreaks from a fire, today may be the time to hand those burn-dens over.
But now, this is what the Lord says: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine… When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, the flames will not set you ablaze… You are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you…” Isaiah 43
Again, it is a testament to “God works in strange ways” but if you’re open to receiving, you will see. Today, I agonized over going to dinner with a long-time friend, but we have had some great tension between us these past few weeks. She went through a very hard month of medical problems and I struggled with emotional problems. We both have over-reacted and I know I was not sensitive to her needs, because of my own. So, I elected to send her an email letting her know how much I loved her, but that I would decline tonight, for appreciation of each other in another time and place. I can only hope she values my friendship as much. Then I read the “fireplace”… thank you Gindi.
Wow – it’s so interesting how these friendship cycles happen. I’ve experienced it in my own life. I’ll keep you both in my prayers and hope that you find one another again.