Feeding The Flame

In response to a recent “Thought for the Day,” Justin Mandala shared this French maxim: “Distance is to love as wind is to a flame. The wind will revive the strong flame but extinguish the weak one.” The American counterpart to this adage is: “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” But if the relationship is weak, “Absence makes the heart go yonder.”

We have been unable to worship or otherwise congregate as a group for several weeks now. Many have lamented over this, and such speaks to the relationship we have as God’s family. On the whole, we have been a congregation that shares concern for each other. We visit long after the service has ended: the children play; the parents “chew the fat.” We get together for potlucks, singings, special classes, individual meals, quilting bees, teen devotions, workdays at the building, etc.

“But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (I Cor. 12:24-27, NIV).

As a body we are all suffering together, but it is our prayer that absence from each other will fan the flame of ardor and not extinguish our affection for each other as spiritual siblings.

But let us avoid the mistake of thinking that our distance from each other translates into distance from God. Though it should be obvious that joint worship and fellowship are designed to accentuate our faith, our relationship with God is primary and unobstructed by prison cells, hospital walls, continents or other barriers that arise in a world of uncertainties. While we should not willfully absent ourselves from congregational life thinking it to be unnecessary, neither should we think that temporary conditions such as the present pandemic cut us off from God.

“O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. ... Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me. ... Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day.” (Ps. 139:1-3, 7-10, 12).

When I was 7 years old, my father was stationed for a year on the tiny island of Yap in the Pacific Ocean. He was halfway around the globe from family, and he was isolated from all other Christians in the world, but I am confident based on his faith that he was not separated from God. And though it’s been 53 years since he returned from that assignment, I distinctly remember the eager anticipation of going to the airport in the middle of the night to pick him up.

The wind only fed the flame.