This summer I went camping with my family, and I learned the tricks of building a successful campfire. I had never built a fire before, but I was struck with not only what a spiritual experience it was, but how it connected to vocational discernment.
When I built the fire, I started by adding a few larger logs to the fire pit and quickly realized that the larger the log, the longer it took for it to catch fire from the flame. So I added smaller sticks. The sticks that were dry, cracked and kind of darkish in color, or the ones I considered the most imperfect and the least useful, were the quickest to kindle.
In order to produce a flame that was perfect for making s’mores, I relied on my breath and the evening breeze.
An article I read prior to the trip about building a fire suggested that the keys to a successful one would be how the wood was arranged. When the firewood was put together and each piece leaned on one another, the flame shot up and took hold with greater force.
As the fire continued to burn, the wood underwent a compositional transformation. And finally, the dead wood had been converted into glowing embers.
While reflecting on my campfire experience, I realized there are many analogies to vocational discernment.
The Sticks: Those that were the smallest and most imperfect were the most responsive and readily used. Throughout Scripture we see God using imperfect people for the sake of God’s mission. God wants to use us even in our smallness and brokenness.
The “Evening Breeze”: At times, the wind seems so subtle that we can’t even feel it, yet we know it’s there working. The breath of the Spirit is as unseen as the wind, and it can move us, shake us and pivot our path. It can kindle a fire within if we’re open to it.
The Arrangement: When we lean on each other, we feel supported and encouraged in our vocational discernment. The document “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment” states that young people have a need for persons of reference. They seek these people “to lean on” among their peers, as well as their parents and families. When we turn to others people, we realize that it is God who has been the foundation that supports everyone/everything.
The Fire: With the promoting of the Holy Spirit, there is sure to be a radical transformation that flames forth. Whenever the Holy Spirit is involved, it’s impossible to have a “halfhearted” experience.
The Glowing Embers: Now that the fire is on the inside, the embers are the divine spark, the vessel of fire, ready to be fanned into flame in response to God’s call.
My experience building the campfire this summer showed me that paying attention to and reflecting on the simplest things can lead us to a deeper appreciation of God in our lives!
Author: Julie Tebbe