Growing up, my Dad would often tell me sayings that his Mom often told him while he was growing up. A lot of them would be little nuggets of truth or peculiar ways that she wanted things done that she was unwavering on. One such thing was that she wanted the kids to rake the yard every Saturday so that there was rake prints in the sand. Back then, you were looked at badly if you had grass growing in your yard, so in her mind you needed to make sure you raked the yard on Saturday (never Sunday). It was important to have those rake marks showing on Sunday in the sandy soil that was where they lived or you could be looked on as “Sorry.” Dad and his brother quickly learned that they could make quick work of this chore by tying the rake on the back of their bikes and riding around the yard.
Another favorite saying that my Grandmother was often quoted as saying is, “They burned bright, but they didn’t burn long.” If you have read much of this blog, you will know that one of the main themes that I express is the idea of finding the right balance as a husband and a father. I find it important to go through those life roles not being too high or too low, too extreme or too shallow, or too emotional or too passive. I find to get a good grasp of that balance one needs to be consistent. Consistency allows your wife and kids to feel comfortable with your decisions, emotions, and love.
Today, I would like to look at four kinds of men I will call Flame Retardant Men. We all know at least one of these men. They all have issues keeping their flames lit.
If we look at Matthew 25, we find the Parable of the Ten Virgins. In the story we are told that ten virgins took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. We are told that “five of them were foolish and five of them were wise” (Matthew 25:2). The difference between the foolish and the wise virgins was that the wise ones carried extra oil in jars so that they would have plenty if the bridegroom was a long time in coming. As the story continues, the foolish virgins’ lamps went out because they ran out of oil. They had to leave and try to buy some more oil. While they were gone, the bridegroom arrived and the wise virgins were allowed into the wedding banquet and the door was shut. The foolish ones returned later to find the door shut and were not allowed in. The point of this parable is to say that we do not know the day or the hour when Christ may return.
When it comes to our Flame Retardant Men, they too had good intentions of being ready, but something has kept them from staying lit until they reached the banquet.
“On Fire” Guy
This is the classic “he burned bright but he didn’t burn long” guy. Recently, I noticed a guy that was new to our church that came in and was just totally “on fire” with good intentions. He organized all types of prayer times for different member’s needs and had calls for prayers for revival. This guy was jacked up and excited about getting the church moving. He quickly was involved with choir, men’s ministries, and just about everything you could get involved in. If there was something he could think to do, he was ready to take on the challenge. Well, it has been about nine months. I haven’t seen the guy in weeks or heard anything about him. My guess is that he ran out of oil. I don’t truthfully know, but he may have decided to move on and work the “on fire” crusade at another place or just ran out of steam. It is very easy for all of us to get locked in on something flashy or exciting and run quickly to it only to lose interest or desire once we get there.
That brings me to our second flame retardant man, the Enlightened Guy. This is the guy that decides that the fuel that is being offered at the church is not the right kind of fuel for his lamp. He has looked around and decided that he needs an alternative fuel for his lamp. Maybe something that is a “higher” octane. Maybe something that might be a greener fuel, as in the greener fuel on the other side of the fence. This could be the guy that wants to debate the minute details of theology with you. Somewhere along the line with learning more about Christ they became too sophisticated and lost their childlike faith. Their fuel ran out because they couldn’t use the oil that was being offered at your church and they go on their way. My grandma would say that they “are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.”
This Flickering Guy is probably the most common of the whole group. I look at him as the guy that has a flame that is either flickering high or low. He might have a problem with keeping his wick trimmed or he might just be prone to get in windy situations. This is the guy that starts out on something with the best of intentions and has great ideas and plans but has no follow through. He is a great starter but trails off quickly as a responsibility continues. I guess I see this guy as the guy that always wants to be a leader of a group but never wants to put in the time or effort to make the group work. My grandmother didn’t say this, but this sounds like something she would say, “Good intentions are not enough. They’ve never put an onion in the soup yet.”
Finally, the Extinguisher Guy is the guy that works really hard to never get lit in the first place. If for some reason he starts to see smoke starting to come up from some place, he is quick to go douse any plans for it to produce a flame. This guy has an excuse for every potential responsibility. If there is a possibility that a fault can be found in a program or idea, this is the guy to go to. He is very involved with his church but yet not involved all at the same time. He may even be able to be labeled as a complainer. It doesn’t matter what the pastor, or staff, or deacons, or Sunday school teachers are working at because they should be doing it a different way. Once again, this is not a saying from my grandmother, but from Steven Graym: “Excuses are the tools with which persons with no purpose in view build for themselves great monuments of nothing.”
So, I ask you to evaluate yourself today. We have probably all been one of the Flame Retardant Men at sometime in our lives. Let’s work on finding balance and consistency in our marriage, in our church, in our job, and as a Dad. Are you preparing yourself daily to have enough fuel for your lamp to burn until the banquet begins? Are you working to keep your wick clean and trimmed so you are giving off the best, most efficient light? Are there other types of Flame Retardant Men that I haven’t mentioned? I would like to hear your ideas.