ONE TINY EMBER
By: Ginny Luedeman
CS Journal
June 2005

Avid campers and those (like me) with wood-burning furnaces know that building a proper fire doesn’t happen instantaneously. But with patience and persistence, a lone ember, or the flame of a single match, can be coaxed into a cheerful, crackling blaze. Perfect for cool evenings or the roasting of a marshmallow.
Perfect, too, as a way to understand how just a little bit of spiritual understanding can grow into something bright and powerful. The point is not to become discouraged by how small it seems at first, but to work with what you have -- to tend and coax that little flame -- and to trust that with persistence and the proper source your understanding will grow.
Of course, when it comes to spiritual understanding, the source is a given. I say “a given” because the God I’ve come to know through my study of the Bible and Mary Baker Eddy’s writings is infinite good, infinite Love. This Love is divine Mind itself, the source of all understanding. I’ve found a lot of relief in returning to this idea -- that I’m not relying on my own mind or intelligence to develop my understanding, but that Love wants me to know its nature, and my nature as Love’s expression. And that I can count on infinite Mind to nurture in me the understanding that inevitably forwards my progress.
Mary Baker Eddy, whose own spiritual understanding grew into a flame that sparked a worldwide movement of healing, once assured her readers: “God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies. Never ask for tomorrow: it is enough that divine Love is an ever-present help; and if you wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment.”
Life’s demands can sometimes seem too great for my limited abilities. Discouragement and doubt can feel overwhelming, tempting me to throw in the towel when solutions seem beyond my reach. But experience has shown me that if I ignore today’s opportunities to stretch and grow, I’ll inevitably have to retrace my steps: Those same opportunities will still be waiting for me somewhere down the road. And this time around, I’ll have the added work of dealing with apathy, as well.
So I’ve endeavored to wipe procrastination off the list of my shortcomings. And when I feel that there isn’t enough understanding, patience, or courage to go forward, instead of giving up, I can turn back to the source, to God, to discover more of what I need. That’s what inevitably brings resolution -- and healing -- just as I discovered last fall.
For three days and nights I’d been battling aggressive, flu-like symptoms that made it almost impossible to get out of bed. Yet this experience was different than challenges I’d faced in the past. In fact, when my mother called to see how I was doing, I was grateful I could say that I was really loving this opportunity to grow spiritually. My prayers, my husband’s support, and my study of the Bible and Mrs. Eddy’s writings had uncovered some fears that I now knew God was enabling me to discard. And some wonderful, fresh thoughts about myself as God’s loved child were melting away a hidden sense of frailty and helping me leave behind the personal history that seemed to justify it.
“I love having this healing,” I told my mom, then found myself smiling as I hung up the phone. I meant it. In spite of the suffering, I felt grateful, buoyed up, and that was new for me. Through my prayers, I’d caught a glimpse of the fact that this healing wasn’t about getting well as much as it was aobut stretching my understanding of God and learning more about my perfect nature as His creation. And I loved that.
If all I had in this world, I reasoned, was 90 years of a material body, what good would that be? Even if for each moment of those 90 years my body was healthy, that would be nothing compared to the spiritual understanding that I am the individual expression of God’s goodness. I could do way more with that understanding than I ever could with a healthy body.
That’s because spiritual understanding is what will eventually lead us all out of the belief that we’re somehow separated from God. It’s what will show us that we’re spiritual, not material. And that we could never be anything other than the loved children of an infinitely good Parent. Spiritual understanding is our salvation.
I knew this and loved this. So why, in spite of my gratitude and clear progress, was I still feeling afraid?
On the third day, in the evening, I was back on my feet, but still thinking about these things, when I discovered that the fire in the furnace was out. I looked into the firebox, but there was only a tiny ember, about the size of a nickel, in the bottom -- not enough to start the furnace. I pushed the little ember on top of an air hole and picked up some matchstick - sized pieces of wood to make a miniature fire, about four inches in diameter. Then, on top of that little bundle, I added a slightly larger piece of wood.
I continued to stack the wood until it looked like a tiny but respectable fire, but there was still not evidence that the little sticks were burning when I closed the door of the furnace. I would just have to trust that they’d have what they needed.
This is exactly what I’d been doing for three days, I realized. I’d been facing an illness with everything in my arsenal of spiritual understanding. I’d been reading and studying to improve that understanding. But my greatest concern was that it wouldn’t be enough. That I wouldn’t have what I needed.
And that’s when I saw it: This tiny ember represented me.
The lesson here was to begin with what I had and to build on that -- carefully, intelligently, and without discouragement. That’s what each little stick, gently placed on that ember, represented. Each was trust and gratitude and persistence in the face of the doubt and fear that tried to say, It’s not enough. But in the same way that I’d given that fire what it needed, I now knew that God had given me what I needed, too. That spiritual understanding, which came from God, couldn’t be snuffed out. Instead, God was supplying me, moment by moment, with everything necessary to fan that flame.
About five minutes later, I opened the firebox and gasped in delight. There was a blazing fire! “Give us this day our daily bread,” I couldn’t help thinking, as I closed the door. I had enough understanding for today because of where that understanding comes from. I felt so stoked, just like the fire, so warmed, and loved, and well. Completely well. I’d been healed.
Healed -- and ready to keep adding to the blaze! I found that beginning with what we have in any given moment -- in combination with gratitude, childlike receptivity, persistence, and a willingness to share the good we have -- will reveal God’s abundant love for us. Our perfect nature as His children. And, thought by thought, our right-here-and-now salvation.
That’s a spiritual fact that’s powerful enough to warm every one of us.


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Ginny Luedeman

 

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