An Autumn Fire (Psalm 30)
Reflections on Psalm 30
Whenever smoky smells waft past my nose, the aroma conjures sweet memories of my time at the Embassy (what my roommates and I called our house when I lived in Arlington, VA). On brisk fall nights, Cameron would gather wood from our mountainous stockpiles while Steve cracked open crisp beers for us all. Soon we would be circled around a crackling bonfire, laughing our way deep into the autumn evenings. In these moments where some of my fondest friendships were forged, joy sparked and danced in my heart. The fire’s golden glow, however, would eventually peter out, leaving a pile of ash to be cleaned up the next morning.
We long for lives that blaze and burn with scintillating brilliance. Friendships that will endure decades, families that will offer belonging, and sweet memories that will always summon a nostalgic smile—these are the joys we yearn to clutch close to our hearts. When they waft past, we bask in the warmth against the world’s cold estrangement.
Like the autumn, these fond moments burn briefly, and unfortunately give way to loss and emptiness. Whether it’s through our own failings or through circumstances thrust upon us, the joys of life often flee away, leaving us with a cold ash pile to clean up. In biblical periods, observant Jews marked times of grief by covering themselves in ashes and donning ragged sackcloth. When the cinders of loss adorned the mourner’s forehead, the passing world knew something loved had been taken.
Though the ash and sackcloth are more metaphorical in today’s age, loss has visited us all. Happiness and contentment are often victims in our world marred by sin. When I swept away the ash after an Embassy bonfire, however, I didn’t spit on the fire pit for not holding more logs or curse the wood for not lasting longer. Instead, I smiled because of the friendships built around the ephemeral fall blaze, confident that these moments were a foretaste of an eternal joy yet to come. Loss may invite sadness and “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). God gives us both the fire and the ash that we may yearn for eternity. “Those who love Christ,” writes David Gibson in Living Life Backward, “cherish eating and drinking because it looks a little like what we will do after we die. The gifts are from the real country. They smell and taste and feel like home.” Bask in the autumn fire, for it flickers with the warmth of heaven, and let yourself weep with the ashes, for they remind us that we are not there yet.
Footsteps—putting feet on our faith
1. What are some of your fondest memories?
2. What are some of your deepest sadnesses?
3. How can God use those to teach you about eternity?
Dear God, you give us both the fire and the ash, the joy and the sadness. In the happiness we catch a glimpse of heaven, and in the loss we gain longing to get there. The fire and the ash will interplay in our experiences. Let us praise you through both. In Christ I pray, amen.