Set my hair afire, Lord!

Set my soul afire Lord
For thy holy word
Burn it deep within me
Let thy voice be heard

“Set My Soul Afire” — Hymn

December 24, 1996 was a date I will probably never forget. My mother will never let me.

I was 17 at the time — in my junior year of high school. We had gone to our church for the Christmas Eve candlelight service. My friend Matt, who was quite religious but also quite alone in the world, chose to come with us. He even stayed at our home that night at my mother’s insistence because she believed nobody should be alone on Christmas.

As we were walking outside of the worship center (unlike Catholics, evangelical Protestants are very careful not to ascribe spiritual significance to physical objects like buildings…so they could not call it a sanctuary), I was having a little adolescent fun with my candle. My mother was directly in front of me, and I was teasing her by blowing the flame not so much out as forward.

Unfortunately, I did not have as much control over the flame as I thought I had, and the ribbon in her hair caught fire. Matt and I rushed up to her and quickly stamped out the flames, which did end up singeing her hair a bit. Men who were walking out behind us were in the midst of removing their coats so they could push her to the ground and put out her hair.

For a couple of years later, whenever the congregation would sing “Set My Soul Afire,” I would emphatically replace the word “soul” with “hair” just to tease her. I think I get that from Dad — Mom was not amused.