Welcome back, friends! Have you noticed that I have a little theme going on these past few weeks? I didn’t intend for it to happen, but my muses seem to be going “back to basics” as I think about such simple objects… pencils, snowflakes and this week… the simple match stick. I was cleaning out a cupboard recently and found a collection of matchsticks. The box was nowhere to be found and they were scattered all over the bottom of the (one of many) junk drawers in my house. I’m discovering how crazy complex seemingly simple things are. Worth a post or two, I am discovering, as I look up content. Anyway, back to the junk drawer matches. As I gathered them up, I wondered if I needed the original box. Turns out, I may. Apparently, there is a difference between the cheap, safety box o’ matches a la dollar store, and the “strike anywhere” matches via the old movies where the cowboy lights his pipe on the bottom of his cowboy boot.
It comes down to the calculation of complex chemical reactions. And a little friction and fuel. Our safety matchbox holds that strip along the side. The strip contains red phosphorus and teeny bits of powdered glass. The tip of the match stick contains sulphur and a bit of wax (plus the wood of the stick itself). Here’s where the magic happens: match strikes the box, friction via the bits of glass create heat, heat changes the chemical composition of red phosphorus to white phosphorus, white phosphorus is highly flammable and reacts to the oxygen in the air to create heat… the heat is fueled by the oxygen and the wax and sulphur and: poof! FIRE!
All of this happens in a fraction of a second. The strike-anywhere matches have all the chemicals contained in the match head… making them a “quick fuse” shall we say? And therefore labelled as “dangerous goods”. They are hard to find easily on the shelves and are accompanied by the appropriate safety guidelines nowadays. Don’t play with matches, kids! My hubby loves a good fire. He’s a big kid when it comes to that mesmerizing flame. The bigger the bonfire the better. Maybe the box is out by our firepit. Currently drowned by the snow. Probably safer there.
I read recently that following Christ is a lot like building a fire. We receive salvation in an instant… like the matchstick igniting. But the matchstick will quickly die out if a fire is not tended and fueled. At first with kindling and tinder. Quick lessons ignite our passion when we first come to faith… we are “on fire”. Then, our journeys slow down and we slow burn for a while… we take time to eat away at the big logs and rejoice that burning embers make for good marshmallows. Yet, without stoking and refuelling, even a giant bonfire with eventually burn itself out. We must continue to fan the flame in our hearts… but the good part is, God is there to help along the way! His word is a constant catalyst for the fire in our hearts. And it never gets used up.
I’m finding it hard to keep the kindling hot during zoom calls and online. Despite the lockdowns, my time gets eaten up with other things than personal Bible study. I want to go to concerts, retreats and conferences. I want to meet with other believers who can fuel my fire and ignite the glowing embers of my heart. Still, simple match sticks are complex enough to bring forth a flame on the tiniest of toothpicks. And it only takes a spark to set a whole forest ablaze. Perhaps I need a bit of patience. Or a really good marshmallow skewer and a bit of time to revel in the sweet goodness of burning embers.