I once heard from a head master of a high school that the pursuit of knowledge – learning for learning’s sake was not enough…that listening and discernment were key to the westernized ideal that ‘knowledge is power.’ He went on to say that the objective at his school was to graduate young people with this latter skill, discernment, and that the former – the acquisition of knowledge – could be gotten anywhere. What distinguished his school from others was not the pursuit of knowledge, but how to connect the dots of knowledge, problem solve and think. “What we aim to do here,” he said, “is to teach your children how to ENLIGHTEN a room, a discussion, a relationship, a communication; and not INFLAME.”
He conjured the warmth associated with the soft lighting of a candle or a camp fire vs the heat a raging fire generates. That’s what the school was teaching to – the warmth that lighting a room, discussion, relationship, communication with problem solving thinkers can achieve. No talking heads. No Teflon leaders. No self-righteous degree heavy politicians. The world needs problem solvers, thinkers, he suggested. Those who can walk into a room with a candle that enlightens, and not a torch – a burning bone to chew – that inflames.
Enlighten vs. inflame. What a concept.
But not an original one. Nope; enlightening and not inflaming – burning up – is exactly what took place between Moses and the Spirit on that mountain top in today’s Old Testament account (Exodus 3:1-12).
The burning bush and the angel of the Lord in “a flame of fire” within it – enlightening, if you will, the entire landscape. Just look at how the Spirit lights up and calls at the same time in the painting depicting the scene, here. Inviting, warm, and yet awesome and a bit on the frightening side. But here is Moses listening and the bush burns but doesn’t inflame. The Spirit didn’t burn things up, didn’t incite anything but awe and respect. Enlightened, not inflamed. What a concept.
The question before me today is how the Spirit within me – God with me – how that manifests in my relationships, conversations, communications. At any given time, I see moments of enlightenment, and at others, an inflammatory character. I pray that the balance will tip in favor of enlightenment – a warmth, not heat – in the end. Blazing but not consumed.