“Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?” – Luke 24:32
Have you ever had a period of “dry bones” when an oppressive cloud looms over you? One such day, after a ten-hour sleep, I was woken up by a guest on daytime TV who was discussing the issue of burnout, a condition that seems to afflict the millennials. I am not in that generation anymore.
I have reduced my workload considerably and should not be suffering burnout. However, I seem to tick all the boxes, along with nasty heartburn, so I needed to explore what was happening.
I discovered there is a term called, burn-in, the process by which components of a system are exercised prior to being placed in. This testing process will force certain failures to occur under supervised conditions so an understanding of load capacity of the product can be established. (Wikipedia)
Then there is “burnout”, coined in the 1970s by the American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, to describe the consequences of severe stress and high ideals in “helping” professions.
Doctors and nurses, for example, would often end up being “burned out” – exhausted, listless, and unable to cope. Nowadays, the term is also used for the dark side of self-sacrifice. It can affect anyone, from stressed-out achievers, celebrities, religious workers to overworked employees and homemakers (Wwww.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).
There is also the spiritual quality of burning. In our churches and liturgical prayers, we use symbols to represent the Holy Spirit. Fire is a popular representation of the Holy Spirit. The fire that appeared on Pentecost was reminiscent of the burning bush on Mount Sinai from which God spoke to Moses. During the Exodus, the people of God were led by a pillar of fire at night. Fire calls attention to the strength and force of the Holy Spirit.
In June, we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. As a member of a charismatic group, it is a significant day when we ask the Holy Spirit to baptise and transform us so that our hearts will burn. During a prayer meeting when we invoke the Holy Spirit, my body gets so warm for hours, like burning with fever. The gifts of the Holy Spirit – praying in tongues, prophesying, the gift of vision, knowledge and healing, resting in the Spirit are manifested – the Holy Spirit confirming His abiding presence.
But what does it mean to burn for God? A bishop explained “that the disciples felt their hearts burn within them. They were burning because in Jesus the disciples caught a glimpse into the heart of God and found their world made new. They saw for an instant the full scope of the Father’s loving plan and its despair into conviction and hope.
Burning for God means accepting the Holy Spirit as the promised Helper. Jesus entrusted Him to us and us to Him. He is our Advocate, our Friend, our Healer as He burns in all the wounds of our old self into a new creation. His desire is for us to burn for God, not burn out, thus the need of resting in Him.
One saint who experienced the mystical power of the Holy Spirit was Saint Philip Neri, who on the vigil of Pentecost while praying in the catacombs asked God to give him the Holy Spirit. After experiencing great joy and a vision, the Holy Spirit appeared to him as a ball of fire and entered into his mouth and descended into his heart causing it to expand to twice its normal size, breaking two of his ribs and from then on felt that his heart was on fire all the time! What a profound learning that must have been!
I spent all my school years at the College of the Holy Spirit, Philippines. I even taught there for seven years before I migrated to Australia. But it was only in the year 2000 (Jubilee Year) that I experienced the Holy Spirit in a personal, powerful way when I had my first baptism in the Spirit.
The recent dryness I was feeling had come from a disconnection from Him. It is not His doing, but mine. At the time of writing, I woke up from a dream of my old school, the College of the Holy Spirit. I remember this school in the 1980s – it stood alone in the middle of a vast empty field. The site seemed uninhabitable at that stage.
In this prophetic dream, the landscape has fully changed – more houses, more infrastructures were being built around it. I am told this is how it is now too. In the dream, I saw the school again. It was more impressive, made of pure concrete, but construction was busy going on around. But I got that peaceful feeling I was home again and was healed from my heartburn!
The Holy Spirit is reminding me of the same home-coming experience in 2000. I am a work in progress, but in the midst of my busy world, He should remain the solid foundation of my life.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, source of light and healing, burn within so we can have a heart of fire for love of God and others. Amen.
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