Here in the Shire, many people heat with wood. They understand when I say marriage is a wood stove.
What, essentially, is a wood stove? It is a box that holds fire. It is a container. The fire doesn’t run hither and yon, wherever it wills; it is a controlled burn. This brings safety, security and peace of mind.
A wood stove provides heat for living; in the past, it provided heat for cooking. It is a means of warmth and sustenance. But it is more than utility: a ginnin’ wood stove is pure comfort on a cold day.
The stove won’t heat without work. Wood needs to be cut, split and stacked; a fire must be kindled; it needs to be fed. Constantly. If you leave the stove alone for a day, the fire goes out. Ashes need to be removed; air needs to be present for a good draft, the door needs to be shut to conserve the fuel. If smoky irritants start billowing out, it is time to attend to the fire.
When a fire burns in a stove, a chemical reaction takes place. The composition of the wood is unalterably changed. Marriage does that. It changes you. Even when the marriage ends by death or divorce, you do not revert back to the person you were before marriage.
Fire is powerful. A relatively small stove can heat a large space. Being faithful in the small daily acts has huge ramifications.
A warm wood stove becomes a community magnet. If a group of people walk in from the cold, they congregate around the warm stove, basking in the warmth and comfort. A warm marriage does the same thing: it attracts people. When you respect and admire your husband, and when he respects and cherishes you, you are warming your community. Your marriage is the gospel on display. The inverse is also true. When you give your husband the cold shoulder more than one person feels the chill. Folks won’t huddle around a cold stove.
Fire is dangerous and wild. A wood stove presents a very clear and present danger to young ones. When we had toddlers my husband built a fence to protect them from getting burned. The marriage covenant is that fence. A healthy respect of the danger and a healthy thrill of the wild are both appropriate.
Fire is a thing of vibrant beauty: blue, red, and yellow flames, brown and green wood, black smudgy coals, white ash. As it burns it changes outfits and takes on new shapes.
Finally, a fire is a profound mystery. How does does fuel + air + combustion make a flame that flickers and dances and curls around the coals? Fire mesmerizes, makes you stare and wonder and marvel. When the fire burns in a marriage, we stare at the sparks and gasp at the glory.
I wish you a warm wood stove, one that radiates grace. May the Lord God Almighty who ignited the flame between husband and wife, keep your fire bright.