We use fire as a metaphor for life experience all the time. Garth Brooks sings about “standing outside the fire.” At Mass we sing of God strengthening us “like gold that’s tested in fire.” Only a little while I ago I was writing about the flames of experience, referencing William Blake.
Not surprisingly, I think about fire a lot. I’ve experienced its power, which is amazing and frightening. I think about all the things we had–a houseful of furniture, keepsakes, clothes, household goods–and I say to John, “Where did it all GO?” Because it’s not just there, damaged–it’s GONE, all of it, unrecognizable for the most part.
So when we use fire as a metaphor, I wonder if we really know what we are saying. See, here’s the thing about fire–it doesn’t just destroy, it CONSUMES. Sure, fire is transformative, and it may “temper” some things, but most things it transforms into ashes.
Some of us may be made stronger and better through the trials we undergo in this life, but I think we need to be more understanding of those who are consumed and destroyed by them.