How do you describe fire? We say flames are red, but watching them jump up from my charcoal grill this evening, I saw varying shades of orange. Flames danced above the intensifying bedrock of burning coals. They were constantly changing, leaping high, contorting themselves into a myriad of shapes, physically present yet illusive. Each lick lasted only a microsecond, yet the life of each fed the energy of all. They danced on until orange/yellow heat morphed into blue/white heat with pockets of reddish glow that soon cooked delicious hamburgers. It was a dance of seasonal transition marking Fall’s rapid approach.
As I watched those dancing flames it occurred to me what a parable of human life they represented. At times they were majestic and beautiful. Then they would become volatile with changing shapes, almost acrobatic. Finally they withdrew into a passive presence as they reached their stage of glowing completeness. When all was completed they shrank away into consumed dust.
Aren’t we all a bit like that? We dance through life, fleetingly swelling and shrinking, reaching and withdrawing, stretching upward, and buckling down. In the immensity of time and creation, we each have our moments, intermingled with the moments of those around us. We reach our optimum movement, then morph into the next stage of being, fueling the ongoing universe. Some of us flame up brighter and more boldly than others. Some come and go so quickly they’re scarcely noticed. Yet it takes all of us to make the flame-dance of life vital, vibrant and energized.
Watching the flame-dance brings to mind the magnificence of God’s creation design. We’re each here briefly, significant in our own right, essentially ineffective unless connected with others to generate community. Our moments count. We count. Each of us is essential to the whole. And my faith teaches me that the God who creates our flame-dance knows each one of us personally, and loves us unconditionally. In a moment God will allow us to flame out, so we can emerge into a more permanent and blessed existence.