Fan into Flame
A few months ago I stopped by the church office like it was the emergency room. I felt like I was having earthquakes inside myself. That was just the burritos, right? No. No, I know a good burrito. These rumblings were God calling. It was an unsettling settlement. There was no one to tell me if I’m crazy for this or not. I asked when the next elder meeting was, and an elder happened to be there. He told me to come, and they would pray.
It was pitch black out when I arrived at a strange time, like maybe 8:20, and when I knocked on the door, one let me in and had me sit in the formal living room while he joined back with the others. I waited there and could hear their voices in gentle pleading to God, the original sound man and of us all: authority, strength, and wisdom. By the time they called me in, I was nervous. I knew that if they had concerns about my being in ministry, they would certainly say so. They know me and love me enough to speak.
After some questions, they sat me on an ottoman, and they had me surrounded. I was aware how I am woman and what it is that God has asked me to do. Lap wet with my own tears, bowed head, I’ve been hurt at the hands of men, and now these strong hands were on my shoulders and back, knees, feet, and head, and they blessed me in the sweetest name of Jesus. They blessed my ministry, my writing, and my speaking. They blessed my body and my mind.
After that, I was doing as well as I had ever done. Such a Peter, I’ll do anything for you, Jesus. I am capable! Whew! Come hail or high water, come Creek or LORD’s will, I thought I would never deny Him. But then the rooster crowed, and I knew it had been done.
My giftings had suddenly begun to terrify me, how I write and talk out the GOSPEL, my own testimony of my LORD Jesus. I decided fairly quickly after finishing my book proposal that I wished for a different story. Then I began to welcome our moving boxes. I packed up my journals, pens, notebooks, all the poetry, my Annie Dillard and Beth Ann Fennelly. I packed it all up and put it in a storage unit across town. Seth still held on, but I wouldn’t let him read poetry aloud. My Bible may have been in a stack of bills.
I didn’t want to hear the voice of God,
but then I heard laughter down there in the dark belly of the fish.
To write for Jesus is to say that I’ll open like purest centerfold, like an iris where the dust of story goes flying about as if to make more flowers. Like Mary, seed growing and me here, the spectacle. What will become of me if I write what I know? These prophetic imaginations? That there is thunder, atonement, and grace? I think I’ll die. That’s it. If I write, I think I’ll die. At the very least, I’ll suffer.
“For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our LORD, nor of me His prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:6-8).
Do you see it there? Stop and consider. If the gift is ablaze, there will be suffering in it, but it will be full of power and love, and oh wait, self control. The gift can be put out or I can press into the wind until the sky’s on fire. My choice.
Now I know.
I neglected you too long, Jesus, my muse, the music. I haven’t danced or looked deep into paint or a tree. I haven’t done what I was made to do. I didn’t want to hear you, so I stopped enjoying you, and so I almost lost my heart, myself.
Now when Seth reads me one of those good, rare poems, I’ll rise up into it and at some point lose sense of words, but I’ll understand. I was made for this, how I commune with God. I’m like a full note carried out on a voice for many measures, like a floating seed in full faith that where I’ll land is where I’m supposed to plant.
I am only beautiful on the inside when I’m burning. If there is to be a suffering, let it be for eternal things.