This picture takes me right back to the first year of high school, sitting at a long bench on the top floor of the science block in a lab coat and goggles and nervously lighting a bunsen burner for the first time.
In case you’ve never used one, a bunsen burner is a very simple and common piece of laboratory equipment used for heating or burning things. It runs on gas and has an open flame which can be controlled by moving a collar at the bottom so that a little hole opens and closes letting in more or less air.
We soon got over our ten-year old nervousness and used them to burn all sorts of things we shouldn’t have.. but that’s another story. That evening’s assignment (my first ever science homework) was to draw two pictures of a bunsen burner: one with the collar closed, preventing air from mixing with the gas and producing a yellow flame; the other like this one, with the hole completely open, letting in lots of air and turning the flame blue.
The science is along the lines of the flame needing oxygen to make it burn more efficiently. The hole-fully-open blue flame is much much hotter. If the gas is mixed with pure oxygen as in an oxy-acetylene torch the blue flame it produces can cut through metal!
The bunsen burner in today’s picture is burning much hotter because it is open to the air.
It’s made me think about my openness to the Holy Spirit and the work he wants to do in me and through me. I so much want to be open so that God can breathe into me and my flame burn hotter!
What I notice is that it’s really easy to let that collar slip round and become slightly (or very) closed to the Holy Spirit’s breath on me.
For me the killer is busyness: not taking the time to turn my face towards God and let him breathe, not taking the time to sit in the sunshine of his presence and be warmed. But there are other airhole-closers…
Sometimes fear, fear of being hurt, fear that God’s power might overwhelm you, fear that you might look silly, fear of what he might ask you to do, even fear that he might reject you if you are that vulnerable to him, will drive you to close your heart off a little… or a lot.
For some people anger over what has happened (or not happened) in the past will lead them to punish God by turning their faces away. Just as we can punish other people by not talking to them, or not being open to them, it’s easy to fall into doing the same to God when we feel like he has let us down.
And lastly of course sin, whatever shape or form it takes can cut us off from the oxygen of the breath of God until we repent of it and receive his forgiveness.
For me, this picture is a call to be open, to be vulnerable to, the Holy Spirit and his work, so that the flame of our passion and ministry can burn hotter.
Today I’m going to ask God to show me how open I am to him and the breath of his Spirit, to show me how far the collar is twisted around on the bunsen burner that is my life and to show me what I can do to be more open to him. This week why don’t you find some time, make some time to be open to God and ask him to breathe on you again? Bring him your fear, your forgiveness, your pain, your sin and your hope, and in return ask for his life-bringing oxygen-carrying Holy Spirit. It sounds like a good swap to me.
Burn hotter my friends, and who knows what you will be able to cut through…