“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”
Friend to Friend
Thunder cracked the sky when a lightning bolt ripped through the roof of our home, igniting a fire that redefined our normal that Tuesday night in March. The house snapped dark and shook. It was as if a bomb had gone off.
“I think we got hit!” Hunter screamed from the family room.
We hurried outside to see if it was true. Our neighbor Jeff ran across his yard to ours yelling a confirmation, “I think you got hit! I saw lightning hit your roof!”
The next few minutes were a blurry race against the clock. Get the dogs out! Get the cars out! I’ll grab the computers!
And that’s pretty much all we had time for.
The flames and smoke kicked us out of our home and far from warmth or comfort.
Sirens. Red lights flashing.
Fear and helplessness stood in the rain right beside me as I watched it all play out from across the street.
My feet were naked. In the chaos and commotion I didn’t think to put any on. Someone noticed and placed a pair of leather boat shoes before me. I had no idea whose they were, but I gratefully slipped them on.
The minutes seemed like months in the moments between the arrival of the fire fighters and the point at which they had the hoses hooked up to a water source. Hurry up, guys! Flames raged wildly from my closet window. The house glowed bright with orange. Was this really happening?
Two trucks. Three. Four. Firemen running and shouting. Police on the scene. News cameras and reporters.
Why was it taking so long?
Neighbors everywhere. Soaked. Stunned. Standing in support. Offering prayers and a place to stay. They’d all felt the earth shake within their homes when ours was hit.
Once the fire was contained and fully out, we were allowed to go back in to grab any personal items. It was almost 1am. Darkness hung thick in the air. It is standard procedure for the power to be cut, so the firemen led us through the ashes, debris and water with handheld lights.
The upstairs looked like a smoldering freight train had passed through, hurling darkness and destruction. Soot and debris was all around. Water and smoke everywhere. And ashes. Heaps and heaps of ashes. Could this really be our home?
Yet God’s peace was in the midst of it all, calming me. “When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” (Isaiah 43:2-3)
To say that the night of the fire was surreal scarcely begins to describe it. Since then, my family and I have been in a holding pattern of sorts. A series of hurry-up-and-wait scenarios that tenderize and stretch a heart like a steel mallet.
Displaced is such an odd term.
But, then again, odd words and phrases seem to fit like a pair of well-worn jeans when the storm brings fire. We’ve had to learn a whole new vernacular of terms: contents, textiles, claims, recoverable depreciation, non-recoverable, restorable…
Recover. Reject. Repair. Replace. Restore.
The smoke and smells seared my eyes for days. People I’d never seen from companies I’d never heard of were sifting through the ashes of our personal items, determining what was salvageable and what was damaged beyond repair.
Strangers. In my home. After the most horrific, traumatizing night of my family’s life. Tearing down walls. Ripping up carpet. Packing up box after box after box.
I felt exposed. Vulnerable. Uncomfortable. Did they know they were throwing away and packing up memories?
Did they realize that the big red hatbox in my closet was filled with personalized birthday and anniversary cards from my husband and crayon-written notes from my now grown children?
It was all too personal. Surely this was just a bad dream I would wake up from.
Now, many months later, our home is being rebuilt and we are grateful. We’ve seen and are in the process of witnessing beauty rise from the ashes on many levels.
We’re thankful for the ways we have seen the Lord protect and provide for our family.
We’re grateful for the ways we’ve seen our neighbors and the body of Christ rise up in love, and for the ways we’ve experienced a depth of community that we will treasure for life.
The lessons from the fire are being seared like tattoos on the hearts of my family. And the learning continues each day as we press through the trials of construction. Delays, mistakes, sub-contractors that don’t show… a move in date as fickle as the Carolina weather.
I want to learn every lesson that the Lord has for me – I really do – but the waiting can sure discourage a heart. Do we need to learn so much, God?
I just want to go home.
But through it all, in this season of hurry-up-and-wait, God is bidding me to trust Him. To trust His timing, His plan, His sovereignty and His ability to restore and make new.
Maybe He’s bidding you to trust Him today to? Perhaps not with a house fire, but with a prodigal child, a crumbling marriage or an aging parent? Maybe your waiting involves a health battle, singleness, an employment frustration or a financial burden.
In spite of our struggles, God is at work. Even when questions loom and pain is present. He is faithful and powerful, able to do more than you and I can even ask or imagine. Let’s ask for and imagine a fresh rising of strength and hope today as we trust God’s goodness even when our circumstances burn like fire and smell like smoke.
Dear Lord, Thank You for promising to never leave or forsake Your children. Please strengthen me to face the fires before me today with courage and honor. Help me to trust You.
In Jesus’s Name I pray,
Now It’s Your Turn
Read what God told His people in Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” How does this speak to you today? Tell me – or write a prayer of response – in the comments section of my blog.
PERSONAL UPDATE: So many of you have prayed for my family since the fire. I can’t thank you enough. We have just moved back into our home and are swimming in a deep sea of boxes and in an even deeper sea of gratitude. God is faithful and always good. Love you guys! Thanks for doing life with Sharon, Mary and me!
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