In the midst of misery, just when I want most to find a safe place where the temperature is lower and I can hide, I am called forth into the fires of creativity‑‑from the pot into the frying pan into the fire, so to speak. The Spirit of Truth, God in many forms, says, “Trust in me.

Beyond these flames I AM, the wholeness you ache for. The journey is through the alchemizing conflagration of your creative passions. Enter, and I am one with your creative desires. Together we will transmute all those parts that are not me.”

Knowing that I would not be going home to Hawaii but would be spending the holidays on the lonely Salt Lake campus, a Chinese friend invited me to his family’s home in Calgary. My Chinese friend introduced me to his neighbor, who invited me to a rehearsal of The Drunkard, a version of the melodrama that spoofed Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Remember Hamlet’s soliloquy, as he decides whether and how to avenge his father’s death, “To be, or not to be. That is the question.” There’s one scene in The Drunkard in which the main protagonist holds a bottle in his hand as he staggers center stage and says, “To drink, or not to drink. That is the question.”

At the rehearsal, I was introduced to the director, a thin, delicately‑featured Jewish man who was shorter than me. I told him I was writing a play and just wanted to watch. He invited me to sit with him at his director’s table, which was on the stage, then he turned back to directing the play. One of the actors was a teenage boy, who was surly and loud in the background. Every once in a while, the director would get up and tell this boy to keep it down. There was the main protagonist center stage swinging his bottle around and saying, “To drink, or not to drink,” and there was the director saying, “Hold it…stop … Now, John, look at the bottle like it had all the evils of the world in it. It’s poison. The thought of what’s in it is not only compelling but revolting. I want to see that in your face.”

And there was the main protagonist saying, “Okay, I’ll try it again.” Meanwhile, in the background, there was the teenage boy, talking to some girls now, being rude and disruptive.

Finally, the director couldn’t take it anymore and went up to the boy and said, “Will you shut up, or get off the stage?” The boy jumped down from his perch. He was taller than the director, and I could see taller than me. Looking down on the director, the boy seemed menacing, on the verge of violence. That’s when I decided to make my move. I came around the director’s table and went to where the director and the boy were standing. They were locked in a stand‑off. At this time in my young life, I had this growing sense of myself: I was not only sensitive, but I was perceptive. I was sound of mind and body. I desired deeply to discern what was right and wrong in the world and to act accordingly. I could not only know the truth but also act as a force for good in the world.

“Hey,” I said to the boy. “What’s your problem?” I stepped in front of the director. “Will you cool it?” I said, and was about to take the boy by the arms and drag him off the stage when I noticed the silence.

Everybody was looking at me. I realized then that all that had transpired‑‑not only the main protagonist center stage incanting “To drink, or not to drink,” but also the disrupting boy in the background‑‑all were part of the play. I had just charged into the middle of the performance  to save the director from what I thought was certain violence.

For all my good intentions, I felt blistered and a deep pain in my self who was not only sensitive but also perceptive and who could always see the truth and act upon it. I stood there, my old self burning up like so much chaff. I wanted to retreat from the great heat, but there was the Spirit of Truth beckoning me to come through the flames that burn away all old selves so there will be room for the new. But I hurt. Stepping into the flames of my creative passion was the last thing I want to do. Wasn’t it my creative passion–this wonderful ache for wholeness-‑that got me into trouble in the first place?

Like a co‑conspirator, God says to me, “Come, follow my Son with his winnowing fork. The fires of creativity destroy in order to create. He will show you the Way whereby the chaff in your life will be blown into the unquenchable fire. Your arising soul and your journey will be made one in my Spirit.”

God’s creative fire is not only unquenchable, but also unavoidable, real. I cannot ignore it. I cannot forget it. Once I’ve experienced it, as I did in Calgary when I stepped into the midst of the play The Drunkard, I’ve no choice but to embrace it. My freedom lies in choosing to embrace God’s creative fire, to give the chaff of my old selves, my small ego, to the flames.

I welcome the great heat so I may be burned to nothing, created, and brought into fullness of  being.

 

 

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