I had never owned a woodstove before this year. But this winter – and this early spring - I find myself tending a fire regularly. We do not heat our home exclusively with wood, but most nights I build a fire in the box. I do it to save money on our propane bill and simply for the joy of it.
We have one of those woodstoves with a glass front through which you can view the fire burning. So we have the ambience of a fireplace while heating the house more efficiently than with an open fire.
I find it difficult to take my eyes off the fire. When I am reading or watching television, I find my eyes drawn irresistibly to the stove – to see if it needs more wood or just to watch the movement of the flames. It is so much more interesting then the flickering images on TV.
There is something mesmerizing about fire … and something very spiritual. Fire is a universal symbol for the divine. In the Hebrew Scriptures, sacrifices were offered through fire. In the Vedas, fire was the primary focus of Hindu worship.
The Holy Spirit descended on the apostles in tongues of fire at Pentecost. God appeared to Moses in a burning bush. There is something about fire that connects us to the spiritual realm.
Tending a fire feels like a spiritual practice. It is like tending to the spiritual life. A fire needs watching; so does the soul. Without attention, the flames die down and quickly go out. So does the fire of the soul.
There is nothing so dead as a cold woodstove. There is nothing colder than a dead soul. On the other hand there is nothing that warms the heart more than a blazing fire on a cold night.
I will leave it to the reader’s imagination to explore the details of this symbolism. How does one tend the fire of the soul? What is the fuel? What is the flame? Who is the one who tends the fire?
An ordinary wood fire easily becomes a complex allegory in the mind of a preacher sitting by his woodstove on a cold night. Undoubtedly my imagination is going too far. But how can I not speculate? The fire inspires.