The Slow Burn of Grace

The slow burn of graceI love what Gandalf says on the brink of the abyss:

“You cannot pass! I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor. The dark fire will not avail you, Flame of Udun! Go back to the shadow. You shall not pass!”

The Slow Burn of Grace

What is it about this secret fire that thwarts the fearful dark fire of the Balrog? I call it “the slow burn of grace,” and I talk about it in my book, The Grip of Grace: God’s Hand in The Lord of the Rings:

“Satan forged the Ring of Power in the very presence of the Holy Fire. He was God’s covering cherub, the first of creation. Since it was forged there, this Ring can only be destroyed in the same place. Only the Holy Fire can destroy it.

We came from that Fire, and to that fire we will return, Ring or no. In this encounter with God, known to us as judgment, the fires of Love will destroy the Ring that has thrown the Universe into chaos. The only burning question is how? How will this be accomplished? Here is where Love found a way to save us. Here is where grace entered our lives. Will it be voluntarily or involuntarily? Will it be the slow burn of Grace or the flash fire of Hell?

“Descriptions of the fate of each are found in the Bible. Moses found a bush that was burning, but not being consumed; and the three Hebrews were thrown in the fiery furnace, but did not burn. On the other hand, Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, were devoured by the fire (Leviticus 10), as were the challengers of Moses’ God given authority, Korah and his followers (Numbers 16).

“Because of Grace, judgment can happen two ways. God has gone to great lengths to give us an option, but only we can decide to take advantage of it. If we choose the judgment of Grace, then it renders the fire harmless. Grace answers many questions in the world of Hobbits and of Men. Somehow it takes us, as brands from the burning, out of the fires of Hell. How it does this is the story of the plan of salvation, the whole purpose of which is to bring us back into God’s presence without being consumed.

“I like how Ty Gibson describes it. He says that this kind of judgment is a process by which God gradually, in healing doses, deals out the truth to us about Himself, His beauty, His love, His righteousness, and His holiness. He does this in healing amounts, allowing it to react in our consciousness so that we become aware of those things in us that are not in harmony with His character. God knows every dark nook and cranny of our hearts and how to illuminate them slowly with Love. Step by step we see what love is, and how far we have fallen from it. At each step in this process, we basically say that we would rather have God than sin. As we say yes again and again to the truth about God, we draw nearer to the fire until at last we can tolerate its fullness and stand within the blaze of love.

“It is the slow burn of grace that makes the difference. Grace is like a sunrise. It breaks on our lives gradually, allowing us to become accustomed, little by little, to the fire of God’s glory. This happens over the course of our lives as the Holy Spirit comes to live within us. Even though it hurts, that Fire gradually destroys the Ring out of our lives, so we are not overwhelmed by the fire of His presence when we meet Him as He is.

“To experience this is to live with the Fire now. Through our days our metal is tested as its slow burn removes sin from our lives (1 Peter 1:7). We, who experience God in this way, come to love the Fire. It is our light and our fiery shield, the glory in our midst (Psalm 84:11, Zechariah 2:5).

“On the other hand, there comes no such time of acclimation to the rejecters of grace, no such time of mercy to allow them to acclimate to its heat and brightness. They are dazzled in their place of darkness, as with the sun at noonday, and are emotionally and physically overwhelmed. Like Gollum, they remain attached to the Ring and, when the Ring is destroyed, they are devoured also.”

Servant of the Secret Fire

The dark fire of evil—me-first strife, brutality, envy, malice, and fear—will not avail us, nor allow us to pass into the flames of love and truth. Only the slow burn of grace—the secret fire—in our lives can render the passionate, primal fire of Elohim harmless.

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