Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
February 7, 2021
A fireplace, a crackling fire, and love that lasts forever
When we were thirty, Dean and I built a small cabin out in the woods near the home where I was born. It was our refuge when we came home to visit relatives. We heated the cabin with an open fireplace that Dean loved dearly. It reminded her of watching her father bake sweet potatoes in the coals of a fireplace when she was a child.
Years later we modernized the cabin by installing a heat pump but Dean resisted my proposal to put gas logs in the old fireplace. So, for 60 years we have shared the joy of being mesmerized by logs burning in that fireplace. Our boys can remember cold nights when we slept on a mattress in front of a roaring fire. On a recent freezing morning, I built a nice fire in memory of Dean’s love of a good fire on a cold morning.
Fires provide light as well as heat and light is a basic necessity of life. Light is essential for finding our way in darkness as well as finding our way out of the darkness of debilitating emotions like depression, self-pity and sorrow. Lately I am remembering many nights when, sitting together in front of a lovely fire, Dean and I “saw the light” that showed us the way out of the darkness of troubling problems.
Dean loved lights and especially candle lights. Even now there are no fewer than 20 candles on mantles and tables in our home. One night when I came home to supper, there were no electric lights on – only a dozen or more large candles. Intrigued, I asked why. She said, “Why do you light candles on the altar in church?” I replied, “To symbolize the presence of Christ.” “There, you’ve got it,” she said; “This home needs the presence of Christ right now even more than the church.” Humbled, I thought “Another lesson learned, Big Boy!” Those candles led us into a deeper relationship that blessed our marriage and our home.
Evil is symbolized by darkness, God by light. Light give us power over darkness. God is light. As we live out our days, we must choose how we shall live – as children of darkness or children of light. Jesus is Light, even the Light of the world. The Bible says, “In Him there is no darkness.” So, the great key to life is to live in Christ. When we are “in” Christ, the darkness is overcome by His Light within us.
The Bible invites us to walk in the light but to do that we must walk away from the darkness. And that can be the darkness of evil but also the darkness of attitudes that rob us of hope, joy and peace with God. Sorrow, especially excessive sorrow, can open the door to a foreboding darkness that blinds us to the hope and healing that God wants to give us. That is not a casual observation but a confession of the struggle I am having in days of grief. Part of me believes that God is going to turn my mourning into gladness; part of me struggles with the doubt that thrives in darkness.
On my best days I want to have faith like Orville Kelly had when, at age 43, he was informed he had terminal cancer. The darkness of self-pity enveloped Orville and caused him to spend the night in tears. But Orville Kelly walked out of that darkness, guided by the light of a marvelous idea. He created an organization called “Make Today Count.” His driving purpose was to allow terminally ill patients to share and help each other combat loneliness and isolation. Kelly did die eventually but his idea lived on with more than 100 chapters organized across the nation.
What I loved about Orville even more that his “Make Today Count” ministry was a poem the dying man wrote to express his love for his wife. He titled it, “For my wife, Wanda: Love Will Never Go Away.” When I reflect on the beauty of his stirring words, I wish I had taken the time to express more tender feelings to Dean. I am not drowning in guilt about this but I think it important to admit my regret for having failed to share more of the deep feelings of my heart for her. I share Orville’s poem in the hope that some husband, reading this, will decide to “cover this base” with his wife before it is too late:
Spring, and the land lies fresh green
Beneath a yellow sun.
We walked the land together, you and I
And never knew what future days would bring.
Will you often think of me,
When flowers burst forth each year?
When the earth begins to grow again?
Some say death is so final,
But my love for you can never die.
Just as the sun once warmed our hearts
Let this love touch you some night,
When I am gone,
And loneliness comes –
Before the dawn begins to scatter
Your dreams away.
Summer, and I never knew a bird
Could sing so sweet and clear,
Until they told me I must leave you
For a while.
I never knew the sky could be so deep a blue,
Until I knew I could not grow old with you
But better to be loved by you,
Than to have lived a million summers,
And never known your love.
Together, let us, you and I
Remember the days and nights,
Fall, and the earth begins to die,
And leaves turn golden-brown upon the trees.
Remember me, too, in autumn, for I will walk with you,
As of old, along a city sidewalk at evening-time
Though I cannot hold you by the hand.
Winter, and perhaps someday there may be
Another fireplace, another room,
With crackling fire and fragrant smoke,
And turning, suddenly, we will be together,
And I will hear your laughter and touch your face,
And hold you close to me again.
But until then, if loneliness should seek you out,
Some winter night, when snow is falling down,
Remember, though death has come to me,
Love will never go away!
Do understand that I am not urging men to write poetry but to take the time to express feelings of the heart so that tenderness can do its work in covenant of marriage. While it is true that “Love will never go away,” love will do its greatest work when expressed to the living before death makes that impossible.
No matter what kind of darkness we are struggling with, God’s love will also never go away. God is not only Light; He is also Love, Love that lasts forever. And He waits, eager to light our way out of darkness, and ready to help us love one another with unashamed tenderness. I intend to follow the light He provides. Join me. + + +