A Season to Tend the Flame

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? [Luke 9:24-25]

I love summer.

I love summer so much that I have to be careful not to wish away the rest of the year. I need to remember that every season has its purpose and beauty.

The seasons of the year remind us that life includes times to plant and harvest, dance and weep, live and die. The wise writer of Ecclesiastes 3 observed, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

I heard a story recently that reminded me of the importance of being aware of seasons.

I always look forward to the Olympics.

The Olympic Games are much more than athletic competition, combining sport with spectacle, symbolism, and tradition. Perhaps its most unique symbol is the Olympic flame and the torch relay that precedes the games.

The games officially begin when the torch arrives at the opening ceremony. The flame originates in Athens and usually carried around the host country for a few weeks by a procession of celebrities and ordinary folks honored to carry the Olympic torch.

This tradition apparently originated with the ancient Greek Olympics. Runners would carry the flame from city to city, and its arrival signaled the opening of the games.

Imagine one of those ancient runners chosen for the great honor of carrying the flame. He’s determined to do well. The last guy who ran this route did it in four hours. He plans to shatter the record.

With great ceremony he receives the lighted torch and sprints out of the city.

After a couple of hours he notices the flame flickering a bit. But there’s no time to stop if he’s going to become the fastest flame-carrier ever, so he continues his record-setting pace.

About thirty minutes later he’s shocked to discover that the flame is gone and he’s carrying a burned-out torch. But he’s come this far, his goal is nearly accomplished. He can’t quit now. So he completes the run in record time, enters the packed stadium, and rushes to the dignitaries’ box.

But instead of admiration and acclaim, he’s greeted by puzzled faces. “Where’s the flame?”

“Well, it blew out a while back. But I got here in record time.”

“But we can’t begin the games without the flame.”

The runner feels dejected and confused. No one seems to appreciate his intense training and hard work. He exceeded the limits of human endurance, sacrificed everything to be the best, and nobody cares. No gratitude, no credit, no respect.

Why?

He forgot the reason for running. He focused intently on the hard work required to achieve his own goal and lost track of the true purpose.

He forgot to tend the flame.

The flame is the reason for the race. What’s the flame for you? What’s the ultimate purpose, that essential element of life that makes if all worthwhile? What’s at the center, so critical that reaching the goal without it would render everything else meaningless?

Perhaps it’s faith, marriage, or children. Maybe you’ve ignored the flickering because you’re too busy with that project you’ve worked so hard to complete.

And when you finally finish and notice that the flame died along the way, will you wonder about the missing sense of accomplishment?

There’s a season to train, prepare, and sacrifice. There’s a season to run the race with all of your strength and ability.

Perhaps summer is God’s reminder that there’s also a season to tend the flame. Maybe the warmer weather is a signal to slow down and shield the flickering flame, to replenish its fuel, to be certain that you don’t run so hard that you lose sight of the entire purpose of the race.

Is some essential flame flickering? Is summer God’s way of reminding you to tend the flame?

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? [Mark 8:35]

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Dixon
Copyright 2010 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

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