Column: ‘The fire of God’s love dwells within us’

I have for the last eight weeks been home-bound.

I had a second surgery on a deformity in my ankle. It has been an odd period for me to experience. It occurred over Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, the busiest time in the calendar year. I am not much for sitting in a recliner, hour after hour, day after day. But if I wanted to heal, I had to limit any pressure on the ankle. I want to return to an active life soon, very soon. But as the last eight weeks went by, I was learning some things that I would never have known had I not had the surgery. I will share a few with you.

I could not move and accomplish what I had to do on a typical day. I had to slow down and appreciate the small things surrounding the humble healing space and the good souls I depended on to help me.

I discovered my bedroom window. Outside my window, in the brown of the fields, was a sweeping panoramic view. A scrap pile of bits of wood and small boxes of burnable trash made a pyramid in the backfield. (The ground is damp as we have had a very moist fall and a sprinkle of snow.) I watched as the fire consumed the burnable pile, as it turned to ash. Fascinated by the flames’ orange-yellow and the pile’s energy of consumption, my thoughts turned to fire and its many uses, such as destruction and heat generation.

Many of us in the north country heat our winter homes with wood. Fire is a destructive force to the benefit of warmth, to the light it renders in the dark. Never in my ordinary life had I made time to stop and see the simplicity of the conflagration and ponder the event as spiritual meaning. The Holy Spirit is often referred to as the fire of the Church. The Spirit of God was left to us by Jesus. There is a prayer that says, “Come Holy Spirit and renew the face of the earth.”

The Holy Spirit is the witness of the love of God left to us by Jesus Himself–a powerful but unseen part of the Trinity.

If you have ever been in love or known people in love, there is an aura that dismisses all that surrounds time. We even refer to this very special event with a strange observation: “falling into love.” A place that has no time or normalcy.

Two burns with the desire to be in each other’s presence. That is what love looks like; and it feels like a fire burning for the other. That fire is all that matters; it takes precedent over all else in your life.

The Holy Spirit is the fire of our being and connects with us as individuals. God is set inside each one of us at our birth. Generations have called this the soul. The element that makes us eternal. God is love, and He also gave us free will. God never demands us to choose Him. He calls us, but it is our choice to follow. Amazingly, even if we ignore or choose not to follow Him, He still sustains us. He offers us grace, but it is up to us to accept the help it brings.

Love is a strange value in that it can bring us great joy and can cause us much pain, but in the end, it makes us what we are meant to be as human beings. With all our imperfections, problems, and addictions, God offers us his concern and freedom from selfishness. He shows us an eternal home and triumph over physical death.

Our everyday world can be so intense that every waking moment is filled with activities or events, crises, and importance. We forget that the fire of God’s love dwells within us. We activate the fire by accepting our selfish selves and desiring a path to do His will. What happens when we bring Jesus into our lives is a new freedom, a greater hope, and the activation of the fire of love. Our lives in our current society are so stuffed with our personal issues and contentment that we forget this fire of love inside each being called into this world. Embracing that love sets our life on fire for ourselves, our families, and our community. It is why we are here on earth to find and know love. To realize the fire within each of us we are Children of a loving God.

“As a shepherd looks after His scattered flock when He is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.” (Ezekiel 34:12 )

Kathleen Carlton Johnson, Ph.D., is a hospice chaplain.


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