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  • Writer's pictureJoshua Ziefle

The Fire in Which We Burn

Time is the school in which we learn,

Time is the fire in which we burn.

-Delmore Schwartz (1913-1966)

We are profoundly off-balance.

In many ways that is simply the story of humanity, this side of Eden--caught between our aspirations and our limitations, our God-imaged potential and our broken penchant for diminution of self and others.

At certain times and places in our shared history this tension has been somewhat buried, hidden away so that the gulf between our dreams and present reality is, while not bridged, at least obscured. In other moments and circumstances (indeed, our very present), even such temporary reprieves escape us. Reality stares us in the face and we are left with"the way things are." A fire rages as the world's external chaos has come to match the inner turmoil that lurks just beneath our surface, shared or otherwise.

It is with no small amount of consideration that I have decided, once again, to begin writing. At four years' distance from the last time I published a blog, the world around us has become no less fraught with peril. Our political and societal systems strain at the pressure. Legitimate inequities confront us with calls to reform, even as the siren's call of conspiracy theory beckons to distract us from what really matters. Truth hangs by a thread, and unity--even the limited kind we have experienced in our own lifetimes--seems an idyllic dream. There remain persistent questions about the way in which human oversight of the Earth has been deeply flawed. Then, of course, there are the haunting personal issues that many across the globe have been forced to face in this season of pandemic, isolation, and disequilibrium. And these are just the most emergent items.

To understand what matters requires attention directed towards both the obvious and the hidden. The global and the personal. Those things which we cannot control and those things that remain at least partially within our grasp. As such, this blog will be an effort to consider reality through the lens of the Christian faith--a Truth that helps to integrate the all too often dissociated complexities that assail us. Along the way, I hope you'll join me as we consider subjects such as history, Scripture, ministry, culture, and theology. At times we will even venture farther afield into areas such as science fiction--not on a lark, mind you, but rather as a way to help reflect on concepts in ways not previously considered. From time to time, I'll also be inviting assorted guests to share their thoughts in ways that will spur the conversation onward.

All of this in an attempt to continue the journey so aptly summarized by St. Anselm of Canterbury, whose phrase "faith seeking understanding" (fides quarens intellectum) has long reverberated in my thoughts. My personal exploration of this concept, my role as a Christian minister, and my charge to oversee a College of Ministry all lead me to this renewed venture. I invite you, therefore, to join this conversation, engendered as it is in our shared humanity and the ultimate and proximal questions that swirl around us all. While some of the conversations we begin here will connect more with some than others, my hope is that over the proceeding weeks and months there will be points of contact for a diverse host of readers.

In conclusion, a final thought: time may indeed be the fire in which we burn, but even in the midst of that conflagration, I know there is One with us. Another in the fires we experience--large and small--who is both aware of even while never bound by our limitations in time. It is this eternal reality that I invite you to explore with me here.

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