Fire!

I was reading the blog of Sean Preston, an author and game designer, when this entry caught my attention:

A Quiet Hunger: Developing and Maintaining Creative Discipline
“When you first jump into a “thing”, be it badminton or backgammon, track or field, weightlifting or words, it’s often pursued with a righteous passion, a deep hunger that cannot be satisfied. Or so it may appear. Many folks move too fast. They burn out quickly. They find nothing is limitless.
One most cultivate a quiet hunger. A desire to grow and expand one’s horizons in whatever endeavour they pursue. How does one go about this?
It’s no real secret. It’s just that nothing is as easy as it seems. Discipline, regardless of skill or aptitude, is critical. With enough fortitude, a person may progress more than someone with great ideas and lack of desire. The trick is to nurture this. And this requires refining one’s skill set(s) and improving upon one’s work with constancy.”

A number of themes resonated between his experience and the experience of one seeking to live a life of faith. His talk of the early days of a new hobby, or interest, as being a ‘passion’ or a ‘deep hunger’. Those of us who didn’t grow up in Christian families and found faith when we were older, may recognize this sense of obsession. It’s certainly referred to in the Bible where it’s called our ‘first love’ (Rev. 2:4) Over time this can dull, leaving us neither hot nor cold (Rev. 3:15)

There is a sense that this is inevitable. We need to grow up in our relationship with God – like any relationship. Think of those you know who have been married a long time. Most don’t have the going weak at the knees gushing feeling that they first had, but this doesn’t mean that there is no passion. Instead it has matured to what Sean Preston calls a ‘quiet hunger’. We were at a barbeque the other day. When it was first lit the flames flickered encouragingly and the charcoal sparked away, with the resultant smoke following you around the garden no matter where you stood. This fire is not great for cooking though, it is a fickle fire which either burns too fiercely or goes out on a whim. Instead the best thing to do is wait until those first wild flames have burnt down and the coals are glowing white. Then the food will be cooked with an even, ongoing, powerful heat. Not as dramatic perhaps, but far better. This is what we’re looking for in our faith. Not for our fire for God to go from all on to fizzled out, but from that early enthusiastic but erratic fire to something that will burn consistently and effectively.

So how do we cultivate this? Again Sean is spot on. The answer is discipline, the regular discipline of making time to spend time with God in prayer, Bible Study, worship and the deliberate decision to love him and others. It doesn’t happen overnight, but once a consistent habit is formed a powerful hunger and momentum will develop. Of course, the good news is that we aren’t left on our own to do this, but God has given the Spirit, the divine fire, to ignite us and keep us burning.

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