If you know anything about building a fire, you know it takes three elements for a fire to burn: a fuel source (e.g. wood, gasoline, plastic, etc.), heat (like a spark from a lighter), and oxygen. All three elements must be present for fire to exist. Remove one element, and the fire is extinguished.
Fire is a fascinating thing; I was quite the pyromaniac as a kid. (Don’t tell my mom!) I’d stand over the stove and light paper towels on fire, watching the embers crawl up the quilted quicker picker-upper. Sometimes the fire would burn slowly, never quite making its way to my stubby fingertips; other times it would engulf into flames, sending me running to the sink to extinguish it.
One thing I remember about those childhood antics was that whatever I burned would be forever changed. There was no undoing the act of burning something by fire; you can’t “un-burn” something. When we are tried by fire, we are forever transformed.
Parenting is a kind of tried by fire process that transforms us. Like a fire burning too quickly between our fingertips, we learn to let go and let fire do what its created to do: break down and transform. We surrender; we let go and let nature have her way.
As our children grow and mature, we too undergo a process of daring surrender: our babies go from worm-like crawls to teeter-tottering walkers. Babies who once needed guarding from the things easily found at belly-level now need a new kind of protection: from eye-level coffee table corners and anything not secured to the wall with nuts and bolts.
Maybe you’re caring for a child with developmental delays or other health challenges. You know that every milestone counts. Both experiences cause fear and trepidation in us but yet, we find a way to transition, to surrender daringly, from one season to the next. We do not force our new walkers to remain on their bellies out of fear of their newfound accessibility, do we? We do not bridle the tongues of non-verbal children who muster up their first word. God forbid. We learn to encourage their wobbly stances and new utterances because we know that their transformation is essential for their growth.
These transformations are the result of God’s grace and our willingness to surrender daringly.
And many times, we don’t even realize we’re doing it.
It is a process where we make strides to let go of our preconceived notions of self and others, so transformation can occur; we beat back the insatiable desire to impose our will on others, to control the inevitable, to extinguish the fire God put in our bellies, to let God be God.
And this transformation does not stop at us. This fire God has placed in us is transferable and contagious; it is not to be hidden under a bushel where the lack of oxygen will put out its flame, but available for all to see what God can do when we just surrender daringly. When we choose to let the fire fuel our ability to love without limits and let love consume like a fire, we see the beauty of surrender. We brave the unknown for the possibility of transformation in the darkest of places.
To surrender daringly is to forgo our own desires for the betterment of another – trusting that God is, in fact, fighting for us. Jesus declares that all who [surrenders daringly] because of Him will find the very life we are hoping to keep safe and secure. All the elements we need to tend to the fire in us, our fuel source (our hearts), heat (righteous relationships with other moms), and oxygen (the Holy Spirit within us) creates the perfect condition for a fire of transformative love.
Rev. Alisha L. Gordon, M.Div. is the Executive Director for Spiritual Growth at United Methodist Women. Her work within United Methodist Women is deeply rooted in the spiritual development of the organization’s members. She marries social justice work and spiritual growth to the prophetic call of the church to help women see their full potential as mothers, daughters, sisters and members in an ever-changing social and political landscape.