Friday, July 9, 2010

To be Redeemed from Fire by Fire


T. S. Eliot

The dove descending breaks the air

With flame of incandescent terror

Of which the tongues declare

The one discharge from sin and error.

The only hope, or else despair

Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre—

To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.

Love is the unfamiliar Name

Behind the hands that wove

The intolerable shirt of flame

Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.

*Suspire: to draw a long deep breath; to sigh.)

I have a confession: I have never liked T. S. Eliot. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock spoiled Eliot for me. C. S. Lewis's dislike for his work doomed him. Thus, I have never read what many consider some of Eliot's best works: the Four Quartets.

Tonight I was browsing books at Barnes and Nobel. How I managed to not buy at least three books is beyond me. I'm a cheapskate, I guess. The inscription page of one of the books had the above section of Little Gidding neatly typed there.

No, I didn't fall in love with Eliot. But something burned in my imagination. I saw a picture painted by those words. I saw a dove, tongues of fire, God's purifying fire saving one from hell fire. It occurred to me: God uses fire, satan uses fire. God uses the right amounts for testing, for burning off our impurities. Satan uses fire as torment, pain for the sake of pain. It is the same thing -fire- but wielded very differently based on the attitude of the one holding it.

Who then devised the torment? Love. Oooh, haven't I just written about this very thing? It is Love Who puts us in the fires of purification for our good and His glory. It is Love Who allows pain - if it makes us like His dear Son. It is Love Who cannot bear to leave us as we are, but prunes us, redeems us by His very blood.

Interestingly, I was out with two amazing ladies when I discovered this poem. Our conversation in the "Spirituality/Religion" section at Barnes and Nobel centered on, "This is where I am in life, but I don't like it." Sparks are flying, embers glowing. Mhmm, you are in the Master's furnace. He's making you better than you were. He's forging you into something you couldn't possibly be if you weren't hardened (strengthened) by the fire. Though it hurts will you let God's fire consume you?

We only live, only suspire

Consumed by either fire or fire.

~ Johanna

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