The song “Wonderwall” by Oasis came on the radio. I was about to change the station when these lyrics hit me, “Backbeat, the word is on the street that the fire in your heart is out.”
There are many fires that burn in one’s heart over a lifetime:
- The fire of recognition that leaps within us when we get enough likes, shares, follows or retweets on social media, or we receive praise for something we said or did.
- The fire of excitement that flickers inside as we shop and hunt for bargains on clothing, a piece of furniture or an appliance.
- The fire of self-confidence that expands in our chests as we conquer our fears, accomplish a significant goal or overcome a major obstacle.
- The fire of curiosity that glows brighter when someone tells us they have big news or juicy gossip.
- The fire of adventure that kindles as we embark on a new chapter of life at university or a new job in a new city.
- The fire of anticipation as we head out on holidays to spend time at the beach, cottage or somewhere more exotic, ticking another dream destination off our bucket list.
- The fire of anger that explodes when someone does us wrong or hurts someone we love.
- The fires of jealousy, revenge, envy and greed that burn hot with the fuel of fixation, obsessing on what we think we deserve.
- The fire of self-righteous indignation that bursts into flames when we perceive a word, deed or attitude that fails to meet our criteria of what is right, fair or appropriate.
- The fire of eros that ignites passion, lust and enchanted adoration.
- The fire of creativity that engulfs us as we immerse ourselves in the flow of conceiving or constructing something new.
- The fire of joy that erupts in our hearts when we look into the eyes of our child or our loving partner.
- The fire of fear that flares up when the thought of losing our child or loving partner crosses our mind without warning.
There are many different fires that burn within our hearts, yet there are periods in life when it feels like the fire in our heart has gone out. Nothing in life seems to ignite us, at least not like it used to. This, too, shall pass, but usually not until we glean what we need from this emptiness. There is a reason for every season in life, but we need ears to hear and eyes to see what it is.
When we experience the absence of feeling and passion, or when we experience more negative emotions than positive, this is often an indicator that we are disconnected from our true self. As philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said, “The most common form of despair is not being who you are.”
One of the gifts of darker seasons in life is that we have greater capacity to notice a different kind of fire deep within us, so deep it is often hidden from our awareness. This flame is “the true light that gives light to every human being” (John 1:9). This flame is the divine spark within that has a capacity to start internal forest fires. In fact, this is its intended purpose: to burn everything within us to the ground so we can begin our scorched earth rebuild (a.k.a. death and rebirth).
Sometimes only an all-consuming fire can create the conditions we need to experience the new growth of God in our lives. Dry and barren seasons are often ideal conditions for the divine flame to do its work of devouring all our attachments, desires, beliefs, theology, identity and sense of self, so that the new abundant life of Spirit can be birthed and blossom within us.
This is the baptism of fire John the Baptist warned us about when he introduced Jesus as the one who “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” in Matthew 3:11 and Luke 3:16. This all-consuming fire of God strips us bare and grounds us in the joyful simplicity of pure being. In this place, we see the folly of all pursuits and desires apart from divine presence. The things of Earth grow strangely dim in the light of God’s glory and grace. Love is the only thing that makes sense in this space.
If the fire in your heart is out, pay attention to this deeper flame of God within you by spending lots of time in spacious prayer. There’s no other way. But be warned: It could set you completely on fire for God.
Troy Watson is a pastor of Avon Mennonite Church in Stratford, Ont.
Read more Life in the Postmodern Shift columns by Troy Watson:
Two big surprises, two big questions
Reaching out requires letting in
Healthy interpersonal confession
What 'confessing your sins to one another' isn't
Confession as a personal spiritual practice