What it means to be “carryin fire”

 

 

The-Road-movie-image

I’ve had many questions as to what the name of this blog means.

“Why “carryin fire?”

“What does it mean to “carry fire?”

“Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to play with fire?”

When I was brainstorming what to call the blog, I knew I wanted it to be a name that meant something to me. If you know me personally, you know I become overly invested (obsessive, maybe) with a lot of things. I read a lot. I love a great story. I love a great character. I knew that I wanted to call the blog something literary, but I also wanted a name that connected deeply with me on a spiritual level, hoping that it would connect with others the way it connected with me.

The phrase “carry the fire” or “carrying the fire” is used heavily in the Cormac McCarthy novel “The Road.” And while this book is not Christian Literature (nor probably for each and every person) the two main themes of novel are finding beauty in the midst of despair and remaining vigilant in the darkest of nights, these are both things that scripture is encouraging us to live out in our daily lives. The book is heartbreaking. It is a bleak look at a possible future but it is really a description of our current reality.

The actual phrase “Carryin Fire,” is from another of McCarthy’s works. It comes from the final page of “No Country for Old Men.” And while I will spoil neither book for anyone who might pick them up at some point in life, this work is another tail of a man who refuses lay down arms in the face of insurmountable odds. He stubbornly remains vigilant in a world that has mostly moved on.

This is what it means to be “carryin fire,” to remain faithful, despite the odds. In the darkest moments, in the difficulty of life’s storms we stand. We “carry the fire.”

Okay, so maybe we don’t always stand, maybe some times we crawl. Maybe some times we have retreated and then have to fight our way back forward. Maybe our cause is all but lost, but still we are trying with what strength we have left. This concept overwhelmed me when I first read The Road. I scribbled the phrase “carry the fire” in my pocket notebook, and it’s been a phrase that keeps me going in the hardest of times. I know I am not alone in feeling inspired by this idea. In 2015 Dustin Kenrue (lead singer of the band Thrice, and former worship leader at Mars Hill) put out an album by the name of “Carry the Fire.” Inspired by the Road and his commitment to what God has called him to do, Dustin penned this chorus for the closing track:

“Though the night is cold, we carry the fire.

Though there’s no way home we carry the fire.”

Now what does this have to do with the spiritual life? Would God want us to “carry fire?”

I think the answer is clearly yes. I think the theme’s in The Road, though not out right Christian in themselves, all come from something placed deep inside of us by our creator. I think it is expressed best in both a declaration and a challenge written by Paul in 2 Timothy:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7 ESV)

I. Have. Carried. The. Fire.

This is Paul’s defining declaration about himself at the end of his life, but this is also a challenge. He is turning things over to Timothy, and with this declaration he is challenging Timothy to run this race in the same way he has run it before him. To carry the fire as Paul carried it before him.

In the movie “The Dark Knight” (I’m a movie and comic geek as well), one of the city’s Civic leaders falls under the weight of corruption, and at the culmination of Harvey Dent’s downfall he stands opposed to Batman saying:

“You thought we could be decent men, in an indecent time. But you were wrong. The world is cruel…”

It is my experience that this is how a lot of believers choose to live. Let’s be honest the world is cruel, life is hard, doing right has become wrong. But still we are called to carry on, to remain faithful, to be decent men in an indecent time, to carry the fire.

This is precisely what Paul’s challenge to Timothy was at the end of his life, and what I believe is Christ’s challenge to us as his followers. But, carrying the fire is easier said than done. I know this as well as anyone. I am not Paul. I will not claim to have laid out an example to follow. Christ is that example, and the good news of the Gospel is we don’t have to carry the fire alone.

In the previous blog post entitled “Shoestring Knots or How I Learned to Unlearn Independence,” we talked about the fact that God has not left us alone to do what He’s called us to do. He longs for us to rely on him for help. In a sense he wants to “Carry us as we are Carryin Fire.”

I’ll leave you with one final curious mention of Cormac McCarthy’s books. On the final page of “No Country for Old Men,” (where the exact phrase “caryin fire” is used) Sheriff Ed Tom Bell recounts a dream he had of his late father. In the dream, his father is riding next to him on a horse through a mountain pass. His father rides on ahead to wait for him on the other side (a beautiful picture of his father’s passing). Bell sees that his father is “Carryin Fire” and notes that it is “the color of the moon.” This intrigued me, the moon has no way of creating light on its own, and the moon simply reflects the light given by the sun. I love how this detail was included in the dream. It could mean a million different things, maybe it doesn’t mean anything at all; it was just Bell’s way of describing the color. I take it to mean that this fire that we carry is not a fire of our own making. It is not our own selfish silly causes. This fire we carry, to which we challenge one another to remain faithful in carrying, is a reflection of the light that

“shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5, ESV)

This is the fire we carry: The light of Christ. So the question remains…

Are you “carryin fire?

Grace and Peace to you.

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