Stoke the Fire
Have you ever had to push a car from a standstill? It’s not so easy! I remember when I was a kid, a lot of cars had stick shifts and weren’t very reliable – especially cars high school kids had. We quickly learned that if your battery died, you could get your car started by pushing it to get it moving and then “pop” the clutch. With a sudden jerk, the engine would start. Pretty cool actually! The hard part was getting a big, heavy car moving. A few guys would lean into it and slowly it would begin to move, but as it began to roll, we could lighten up a little…much easier! I learned long ago in physics class that it’s a whole lot easier to keep something going than to get it moving from a standstill: Newton’s First Law of Motion – Objects at rest tend to stay at rest, objects in motion tend to stay in motion.
I’ve actually read how Newton’s law can be applied to “productivity” and procrastination. Think about how much energy it takes to get that project at home started, especially if it’s not one you really look forward to doing. I can tell you of countless projects back in college that were like this for me. But once I got started, they usually weren’t so hard after all. I wondered…. Is this law universal? Might this law apply to our spiritual lives?
Is it harder to get your spiritual fire started or to keep it burning hot?
Think about it….how hard was it to accept Christ as your savior (i.e. getting the fire started)? I suspect that each of us might answer this is a little differently. For some it may have been a relatively easy choice. But others had long, hard struggles to accept Christ’s gift of salvation and surrender their lives to his leadership. Afterall, surrendering really is not something humans like to do. It’s unnatural. Who likes to give up? We typically exhaust every possible option before turning to God.
Surrendering is unnatural for us… It’s hard!
And surrendering requires great trust. It would certainly seem that the idea of believing in something we can’t see takes great faith (hard) so let’s give the benefit of the doubt and say that starting the spiritual fire is hard. So far then, Newton’s law seems to fit. Our spiritual life with Christ is hard to get started.
I believe God is all about relationship. Think of Father, Son, Holy Spirit, three so intimately connected that they are considered one. When we accept Christ’s salvation and leadership over our lives, we find ourselves at the start of a new relationship – an exciting time – the fire has started! But what happens next…?
As a guy, I think about those years back in school when I wanted to ask a girl out on a date – scared me to death – really hard for me! Once I actually got my nerve up and asked, if she said yes, the awkwardness seemed to diminish and we could relax a little and start to form a deeper relationship. Over time, we would get more and more comfortable with each other….it seemed to keep getting easier and easier. But I noticed something: Eventually we would become so comfortable following our patterns and rituals that we would start to take each other for granted. The fun and romance would fade away. Relational intimacy evaporated; the relationship stopped growing. In fact, you can summarize the top reasons for divorce into three words…”no fun anymore.” One might say “the adventure is over…I’m bored”. The question comes to mind:
If it is supposed to be easier to keep the “marriage fire burning” than it is to get it started, why are there so many divorces?
Add to this the many “dead” marriages held together out of necessity or based on principle. The numbers are staggering. Assuming that human nature leads us to take the easiest path, some doubts are forming in my mind; will Newton’s law will hold up for relationships?
Some marriages on the other hand thrive. What is happening to keep these strong, adventurous and fun? Because clearly the fire started at the beginning of the relationship and taking the easiest path does not provide enough momentum to keep it fresh. Leviticus 6:12 (NLT) gives us some insight:
“Meanwhile, the fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must never go out. Each morning the priest will add fresh wood to the fire and arrange the burnt offering on it.”
In the process of making sacrifices, the fire must not simply be kept burning, it must be stoked. Fresh wood needs to be added. More energy. More effort. It’s much harder than simply letting be. In thriving marriages more energy is put in to stoke the fire. I’m sure this looks different for every marriage but it is an effort to stoke the fire. This means investing to continually increase intimacy; to grow deeper. It also means taking the hard road when you have to. Remember those vows “for better or worse…?” Engaging each other in good and especially during hard times really builds intimacy as a couple. This is when they really grow together and become inseparable. This takes substantial added energy. I would contend this can be quite hard! Think of the challenge on a couple when one gets cancer, of faces the loss of a job or harder still, the loss of a child….. I think I could make a case that it is harder to significantly deepen a relationship than starting it in the first place.
Enduring relationships must be kept fresh, growing deeper in intimacy through thick and thin. This is hard and takes a lot of energy.
Now, what if we look at our relationship with God in light of a marriage relationship. After starting the fire, nice and hot, how will it stay that way? And, how much effort will it take? I remember my dialog with God when a doctor said my white blood cell count was scary low. I remember taking my Jump from my stable career to become a financial advisor with a purpose, having to contend with thoughts like “am I a fool?” after an unintended “punch in the gut” from a friend. Each time a surrender was involved…always coming to “will I trust God?” Remember, surrendering is unnatural for us, it’s hard! On an adventure with God, we have to surrender a lot. Each time God helps us peel away another layer: a false belief, a place of self-reliance, a dominating worldly dream. On my adventure, with each surrender I got to know God better and better; deeper and deeper. It requires great energy to adventure with God. Honestly, way harder than accepting Christ in the first place.
How do you stoke the fire? Actively take steps to move closer to God. These steps should make you feel awkward: Start a daily devotional time with journaling, go on a mission trip, pray with your spouse daily, establish a mentor or coach relationship. For me, hands down, the most powerful step I have taken is a dedicated day; a day dedicated to prayer, study, journaling while fasting. This will change your life! Such a day has preceded each of my most significant Jumps. Remember, it takes energy to stoke the fire….it’s hard!
We have a choice. We can go forth in our life having accepted Christ and rely on the original fire to sustain us, clinging to our rituals, our status quo, barely keeping the fire lit. Where will that bring you? Salvation, yes, but your intimacy with God growing more and more distant. Or, you can stoke the fire and pour new energy into your relationship with God by making proactive moves to keep your relationship with God growing. This calls for moving outside of your comfort zone. Doing things that make you uncomfortable. Things that require you to trust God in ways you have never done before.
It is harder to keep an intimate relational fire burning with God than it is to get the fire started in the first place.
So, pursue a life of adventure with God and through it, deepen your intimacy with him.
Let me guide you to find your adventure. Check out my book, Unlock Your Life, 5 Steps and a Jump to Living the Adventure God Made You For