Some years ago I was in temporary living with my friend Michelle in Lincoln, Nebraska with a modest basement apartment when I decided it would be fun to try and burn it down.
You see, I was making fried plantains in the kitchen when some water splattered into my pan of hot bubbling oil and WHOOSH – the curtains came down, the Venetian blinds melted, the linoleum bruised with flame and there was so much smoke damage on the ceiling tiles the whole upper limit turned grey. Although the kitchen injuries sound awful, I caught it in time, and it didn't turn out that bad, nor did I burn down the kitchen.
We tried to help the landlord (and our financial situation) by hiring some professionals from Michelle's church, buying three squares of laminate, and replacing the ceiling tiles. But no, Mr. Landlord decided instead that he would squelch an insurance company for money and "get an estimate" which, of course, was way beyond what we had already set up with the professionals.
I say all that to say . . . It took fifteen some odd years to finish paying the insurance company for that 1994 plantain pyro party. And, apparently, I must have missed doling out the monthly payments . . .
Years later our two good friends came over for dinner in our humble Nashville home. We had these lovely Pier One-looking (I said looking) bamboo candles in our guest room that gave the impression as if they are sitting peacefully ... well, actually on a pier. :-) When I lit them earlier that evening, I grinned at how incredibly appealing they are. After dinner, dessert, and listening to one of those friends beautifully rip up my highly neglected ivory keys, we decided to watch a show on television. I had seen this one, and, as a pit stop to the bathroom was in order anyway, I contemplated blowing out those candles.
At first, I decided not to do it – because they still smelled pretty.
. . . but then I realized the bamboo post on end was actually on fire.
I mean ... the whole thing.
Yeah. Beautiful, huh? Flames lapped high right next to my collection of wonderful antique children's books (I call them antique because they were mine as a child). As you know, I had peeked in the open doorway trying to decide whether or not I really wanted to snuff them out when, in a flash, I was back with the fire extinguisher, and in one squirt made the guest room look like Ansel Adams had had an "off" day on one of his photo shoots.
Good thing I checked; I almost didn't. And yes, my books, room, and general corner of the neighbourhood were still intact so I did not "pay for it" for years – this time. So why share my idiocy with the world?
When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.” Matthew 26:40-41, The Message
There are a slew of amazing verses about the power of fire; I even posted a blog entry at one point about the particular positive power of a kind of fire, but a lazy dog sleeping TOO close to it isn't a particularly positive imagery. At one particular time in my life, I was dealing with an enticing situation, and I asked a close friend, "Do you think I'm playing with fire?" Her absolutely brilliant and convicting response was, "Not yet, Anj, but the candle is most definitely lit."
How often we, as human beings, sometimes tend to dance around or fall sound asleep much too close to "dangerous fires" with the arrogant idea that we know what we're doing and won't get hurt or damage anyone else with our rest or recreation. I know, it looks pretty, smells pretty, and why not enjoy? I don't need to make a tinder nest upon this obvious analogy, do I? *wink* You're smart enough to know I'm not referring to physical flames, but the lack of spiritual ones.
Hey, nothing is wrong with a pretty candle. But there is, of course, the obvious fact that if you leave a fire ignored, it can destroy your home – or someone else's. And there are other convicting metaphors in there as well, but I'll leave them all to you and maybe you won't have to pay unexpected damages for playing with fire.