The other night my parents and I kicked off summer by burning our Christmas tree. It was one of those perfect summer bonfires; the cool grass pulled me down to now but the stars drew me up with a whisper from my past. Clouds silently slid along with the streams in the night sky. I tell you, I haven’t felt peace like that in a long while. The crackling of the fire, my parent’s hushed conversation, the clear, warm night sky, all of it told me I was safe. I was loved. My heart was secure. And that’s the gravity of our hearts, isn’t it? They are drawn to being held safe and secure.
As I laid there in the grass, I couldn’t help but think of the countless summer nights I spent around a fire. There were those ordinary nights where we would just sit and talk. Or the ones up at Campers Paradise where my brother and I wouldn’t go to bed until everyone else was snoring. Or the nights at some state park where we had gone to get away from the city lights. Wherever we were, there was always that same security I felt last week. I would sit in my dad’s lap or rest my head on my mom’s shoulder or poke my brother with a marshmallow stick, and I knew I belonged, I was enough. My heart was in safe hands. So what changed?
Well, at some point I believed a lie, like we all have. Maybe it was my friend in 5th grade who didn’t want to be friends anymore. Or it could have been that teacher in middle school that yelled at me. Or maybe it was that girl in high school who went for the guy who worked out. Whoever it was, or whatever it was, told me that I had to be someone else to receive love. No longer was that kid who poked his brother with marshmallow sticks enough. I had to be funnier and smarter and more attractive. And I believed them.
Like most adolescent boys, I believed the girl the most. People say that high school guys go for girls because they want to prove to the other guys that they’re manly or popular or something like that. And this really makes guys seem like shallow, brick heads. Sure, in a sense we can be, but like any normal human being, the driving force behind it all is to be secure again. And being close with a girl brings some of that back. That girl in high school made me feel like I meant something, that I was special and worth her time. Whenever she wanted to talk with me, just me, I felt a little closer to the fire. I put all of myself into fanning that tiny spark. And I mean everything, she was my ticket back to security. But like most high school crushes, a cold bucket of water was poured over the feeble flame. My effort to reclaim security backfired. And who could blame her? I tried to find the same warmth in her that I once had in the tried and true bonfire of my family. That’s pretty ridiculous, right? We cannot expect new and untested relationships to keep us safe and warm night after night. That’s not fair for anyone.
So I’ve started making my way back to the bonfire. My dear parents and goofy brother are still there because that’s what safe people do. They keep the flame going even when I wander off trying to find warmth somewhere else. They stick another Christmas tree in the fire and wait with open arms and secure hearts for me to saunter back. Twenty years they’ve been sitting there. Who loves like that? Safe people do.
Safe people are the ones we should be giving our hearts to: family, close friends, the One who made our hearts. They should be the ones that keep us safe and warm night after night. And it’s from their warmth that we bring others in, whether a significant other, a new friend, or just some poor weather-worn soul. It’s cold out there. Let’s be those crazy people burning Christmas trees, beacons of security and rest, safe havens in the cool and lonely night.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. – Isaiah 9:2