It was a mistake in the name of safety. Arriving at the church last evening, Board members were alarmed to see a fire burning in the back yard. In truth, it was a lovely fire in one of those portable fire pits, but there was no one basking in the fire's warmth on a cold damp night. There was no one to be seen at all.
There had been a rumor that some homeless man had taken up residence in the area. Perhaps he was the fire starter. Perhaps startled by the arrival of car after car of Board members, he had left the scene, and the fire, in a hurry. All that remained was the lovely fire, sitting perilously near to a wooden gazebo on the church lawn.
Others had already begun emptying plastic wastebaskets by the time I arrived, intending to use them as makeshift water buckets to douse the blaze. There was some brief discussion about the best place to get water. The janitor's closet was the choice, and was shown to be a good choice one when the door was opened, revealing not only the utility sink but also some actual plastic buckets with handles. The buckets were quickly filled, and I carried two of them out back and, under the watchful eyes of two members of the management team, doused the blaze.
"We ought to wet that pile of wood also, in case he comes back." Done.
We turned our attention to our meeting, a bit puzzled by the fire and its origin. A few minutes later the puzzle was solved. One of the regular support groups at the church had planned an activity. To signify desired changes in their lives, they wanted to make lists of those things they wished to leave behind, and... burn them... in the fire pit out back.
As a preacher, I can but imagine how I might use this tale to illustrate how difficult change is. We strive to let go of our old, destructive habits, but there are others, well-intentioned, no doubt, who are continually dousing the flames of change, pulling us back into our old ways.
And then wetting down the woodpile as well.
Perhaps a bad habit I could work on is my tendency to run around trying to put out fires, the literal and the figurative, for everyone else. I'd break away from my past, if only I had some way of symbolizing the change. Oh well....