This Little Flame

“These days of knowing the Movement have educated me to a wovenness with the lives of others that is new for me.”

“The things that I see” really are out of this world.

The week before Christmas, I saw a “peace flame” that had been shared across the world, originating in Bethlehem, and made its way to Steubenville, OH.

The occasion was a prayer vigil for peace in the Middle East, where I saw people of different faiths and beliefs come together to pray.

I saw an atheist beat his chest as we sang together, “and let [peace] begin with me”.

I saw a Muslim, a Jew, and a Christian pray for peace under the same roof.

Under this roof was an old dance studio in a strip mall that I saw transform into a beautiful arts and culture center (“The Studio”) over the course of three short months at the behest of a woman with chronic nerve pain and, as of last month, a cancer resurgence.

While I was busy helping her put the studio together this fall, Suzanne happened to meet a new friend, Mikey - a local musician who knows how to patch, build, and fix just about anything. She bought a small couch from him off Facebook marketplace and he offered to help her unload it at The Studio. He became intrigued by the mission of the place, and saw the work that needed to be done. Soon after, Mikey had installed, painted, and built basically everything in The Studio. And so I also saw the birth of a serendipitous and marvelous new friendship rooted in a shared love of serving the community through the arts.

This same woman brought her idea for an interfaith prayer vigil for peace to fruition 4 days before tumor removal surgery. Eight days before Christmas.

This same woman gave me a jar with a beeswax candle melded to the bottom so I could bring the flame from Bethlehem home. I saw the flame from Bethlehem strapped into my passenger seat, and then I saw it dwindle as I fell asleep. I’ve never trusted fire like that before.

This little flame
This little vigil
In the little town
By the little woman

It was all so little and small. And yet it was immense. It is undeniably a fruit of a great love: Suzanne’s heart, pouring back out the love of Christ she has received onto us. Because who can love so widely who has not been loved so greatly themselves?

We are still in the throes of it all - I say we because I live something of other people’s lives these days. These days of knowing the Movement have educated me to a wovenness with the lives of others that is new for me. I’m slowly allowing myself to be sewn into the details of the lives of my friends, giving pieces of myself to co-suffering. Small pieces, I will admit, as I learn to check out less and check in more.

Which I can only do at all, really, with this hope that God is All in All. That He was born in a barn, placed in a food trough in his first days of life, and suffered a slow death on a cross. Because this means our God is not removed from suffering and poverty. He’s not removed from terror and affliction. He lived that in His body. And He didn’t need to do it, but did it for love of what we suffer. So maybe I do have a hand to hold in the darkness of this world; the darkness that threatens to envelop my dear friends.

Suzanne is out of surgery and slowly recovering. She is starting chemotherapy soon. Say a prayer that this eradicates her cancer. And say a prayer of gratitude for the light she’s brought forth into the world, that she continues to bring forth, in the midst of her illness and recovery, because it is indeed a miracle.

Caroline, Pittsburgh, PA