The Hot Coal of Immortality
Seventeenth century poet and cleric John Donne is one of my favourite writers. Because of his unique perspective, writing four hundred years ago, his poems, prose, and sermons are adorned with insightful metaphors that delight and challenge the modern reader. The delight is in the insight; the challenge is in deciphering the archaic spelling and cultural references. Donne was a contemporary of Shakespeare, and I am often thankful for the explanatory notes that accompany his writings.
In his Devotions, Donne states that God places in in our souls a “coale of Immortalitie. [sic]” It is up to us to choose what to do with it. Either we fan it into flame and so enflame the souls of those around us, we blow it out deliberately or carelessly by sin, or we choose to ignore it, thus guaranteeing its early extinction. We don’t always think of ourselves as immortal beings, distracted as we are by the cares of our daily lives. But it is crucial never to lose sight of our real nature as children of God.
It astonishes me how much the Lord entrusts to our feeble or indifferent care. He delegates to us the care of our own souls. Even Socrates admonishes his disciples by saying: Do not “care for your body or your wealth in preference to or as strongly as for the best possible state of your soul.” It is up to us to nourish and encourage the divine life within.
What is the best way to “fan into flame” the extraordinary gift of God? It takes a strong determination and a steady deliberateness on our part. It is the most monumental task we could undertake. We must be careful to provide for a balanced diet when we consider the care and feeding of our souls. Here are three essentials that the soul cannot be without.
1 – Read the Bible. The word of God is the hot breath of truth that warms our hearts to receive God’s love.
2 – Stay connected to other believers in fellowship. It is much easier for a coal to glow if it is surrounded by other glowing coals. We keep each other burning, and the heat of God’s love is famously contagious.
3 – Stay connected to God in prayer. The fire of the Holy Spirit burns away the dross and impurities within us so that we can shine like gold to reflect the light of his glory to those around us.
The worst we can do is to ignore the remarkable gift of eternal life. Maybe we think we don’t need it, or don’t deserve it, or wouldn’t know what to do with it. But the gift has been given. Accept it. Cultivate it. Our response makes all the difference.
Fan into flame the hot coal of immortality that God has placed in your soul. Be the eternal lover of God that you were created to be. Radiate the warm glow of God’s love to those around you and bask in the warmth reflected back.
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you. – 2 Timothy 1:6a
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