In a dark lodge with wood paneling like chocolate/vanilla swirled ice cream, and cool stone walls, seven women sat facing a fire. The fire was burning inside a stone nook, slightly below floor level, naked. The grate had been moved aside. Big logs whose bark was cut into black and white square patterns by ash periodically shifted, popped, and crackled.The women were gathered before the fire like chocolate chips that have fallen to the bottom of a muffin. Four sat in a row on the brown leather couch, puppies lined up in the cradle of their mother’s shape. Two sat perched on chairs, staring into the dancing flames, enshrouded in fleece blankets of blue and white.
In the corner next to the fire, as if at the helm of a six-man ship, sat the eldest. A rustic woman with silky hair pulled back to the top of her head, held there by one band of rubber, durable and tight like faith after a long hospital stay. The firelight illuminated her perfect hairline, reflected off her earlobes. Athletic pants were tucked into the top of duck boots, and she sat leaning forward. Her eyes were wide, horrified by the weights still balancing on the backs of her young crew members. Suddenly she stood.
“Alright,” she said. She threw three small packages of Kleenex at the women on the couch. She flicked off the overhead light. “This is what we’re gonna do.”
The girls stared up at her, lips ajar. Firelight now reflected off the moisture in their eyes. One fingered the package of tissues, sealing and unsealing the round sticker at the lip of the envelope. The standing woman continued:
“Get a piece of paper and write down your sins. All that junk you have been hangin’ on to. Your parents sins, your sins. Write it all down and we’re gonna burn it. You owe it to the world to accept healin’. God has forgotten those sins you keep bringin’ up. He is ready for you to move on.” She stomped out of the front door, letting in a chilly fall draft.
In a moment, pens were down, flying across torn pages held close to dimly lit faces. Two of the girls looked up, peeking (with marked hesitation), towards the woman who wrestled large chunks of wood outside.
She returned, bold captain for the day, and placed wood on the fire. The only energy emitted besides the Joules eking from flames were in the music notes gently playing:
Boldly I approach your throne, blameless now I’m runnin’ home…
The indention in the stone floor became an altar. The blaze a throne. The wood their unburning God, ready to speak through flames of his creation and control.
One by one each woman folded her piece of college ruled paper corner to corner and knelt before the flames. The orange tendrils kissed their bundled knees, heated the concrete under their feet. Each one offered silent pleas: “Let me live free from the burden of these sins,” “Let me be done with this yoke.” And before each piece of paper curled up and disintegrated into dark ash, bright light shone from the brittle kindling of penned sin. The brilliant glow shot up the wall above the temporary altar, then disappeared. Each woman sat where she had been before, sniffling, grabbing hand of co-heir wedged on couch beside her.
May that be our sin: placed without hesitation into the fire of God’s love. Then may we watch delighted as that burning bush turns it into a bright light warding off the world’s deep darkness.