‘Life is a pure flame, and we live by an invisible sun within us.’
Sir Thomas Browne
What is it that drives people to seek God? Is it the soul, this part of us which makes us ‘in God’s image’ and which is drawn like a magnet back to the Creator? Is it that we are aware of the darkness around us, through which the light of God is seen?
If this is true, that God is inside each of us (as God is inside everything!), then it is hardly surprising that people are drawn back to faith throughout their lives. In my experience, even people who leave organised religion will often find comfort in some sort of spirituality at some point in their life. I can remember reading a book of letters by Evelyn Underhill for my degree which included one to a young teacher. She said to this teacher something along the lines of: the girls cannot understand what it is you teach them at 14, but at some point in their life, some catastrophe will strike them and they will remember everything you have taught them about God. I hope that’s right and I haven’t just made it up! But it really struck me because it’s true that people fall back on God when times are hard.
It’s a strange paradox – going to God when you are struggling, when that God went through some of the worst suffering we can imagine! Try holding your arms up as high as your shoulders. See how long you can hold them there for until they hurt or until they start to fall slightly. I bet it’s less than 5 minutes. Jesus hung on the cross for 6 hours like that, with nails driven through his flesh; having been tortured, spat at, shouted at and accused; having not eaten or drunk since the night before…but it’s because of this suffering that we know God understands us.
I agree with this quote by Sir Thomas Browne – life is a flame and we do live by the light of something we cannot see. But remember: fire can light, heat and cook but it can also burn and destroy. It is how you use it and how carefully you treat it that matters.
So how will you look after the flame of your life?