Not like, for real in flames. I’ve never spontaneously combusted. Like in the Jesus-y spiritual, feel-good sense.
My blog-buddy, Addie Zierman is releasing her first book next week, When We Were On Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love and Starting Over. I can’t tell you how happy I am for her or how excited I am to talk about this book.
Why? Because if you’ve been a Christian for a while, you’ve probably been there. You’ve been on fire for Jesus. Being on fire was all the rage when we were kids in the nineties. Even for us Methodist kids, there was still a little bit of that Holy Spirit fire. It looked different for some of us, depending on what part of evangelical culture we were raised in. For some of us, it was WWJD bracelets. For others, it was trying to evangelize your friends at school or going on mission trips.
But then, somehow, your faith hits the rocks. The flame, which is supposed to be eternal starts to flicker.
Faith Like the Stock Market
I cannot tell you how many times I have been on fire and how many times my flame has nearly been extinguished.
Seriously, I know that if we all drew a graph of our faith life, we would want them to have a nice line that’s constantly going up. Mine is more like the stock market. It soars one day. It crashes the next. Up and down, up and down. I’ll suddenly realize one night that my prayer life lately has sucked. Suddenly, I feel like I’ve been sleepwalking and I don’t know where I am or how I ended up here.
My first major flame-out came, where else? At Christian college.
Rage Against the Bubble
I honestly cannot tell you to this day why I picked that small Christian campus for my college education. The program I was looking for was not strong. It was not a prestigious school. But something about the community attracted me. I had been a good Christian kid in high school. I was very close to the only kid I knew who was choosing a small Christian campus.
I arrived at my dorm room. I unpacked my things and showed up for welcome week.
And I knew I was in trouble.
I guess I did not know how relatively worldly I was. Because welcome week at college struck me as very church campy. We came very close to having an “altar call” at the end of the week. People were hugging and crying. I was thinking, “Really?”
And from there, I kind of rebelled in my own little way. I did not like the confines, the safe “bubble,” the Christian-ese, the sense that this was primarily a Christian institution and not a learning institution. Christian college was one of my least spiritual times in my life.
A Consuming Fire or a Steady Flame
I have had plenty of other spiritual burnouts since then. I got on fire for serving the church. Then the church collapsed. I got on fire when Cheri and I decided to start a family and raise some little Christians of our own. Then we were confronted with infertility. Again and again, I’ve felt my faith grow into a roaring fire. But then the fuel runs out or its starved of oxygen and it sputters and chokes.
And that’s where Addie’s book meets me. My life is a series of burnouts. We’ve probably all been there. We want to be “on fire,” but we usually don’t have the fuel to keep the fire stoked. We can’t sustain that temperature for long.
Is it not better to stoke a little fire, a modest flame that can burn bright and steady? Does God desire for us to burn out every few years? Or does He want us to be able to walk the long road, through all of life’s messes without falling apart?
Please, go check out Addie’s book. You’ll be glad you did.
When was your biggest burn out? How did you recover?