Remember yesterday, when your home was on fire and you got to save five items? That means you left a lot of stuff behind. What are the things you wish you could have taken, but had to leave behind?
- My Dignity. I hadn’t actually ever considered how it would feel to be standing in the middle of my neighbor’s front yard, in the middle of the night, in the middle of winter, shivering not from the cold…but from a mixture of my heart iced over with fear and embarrassment, along with the realization that I wasn’t as invincible as I once thought myself to be. Though some unspoken bystander had tentatively loaned a coat to rest across my shoulders, my legs were as bare and exposed as my heart – except for frightened children clinging to each one of them along my sides. Whose clothes will we be wearing as the sun brings more light to the matter than do the stale embers that have been doused by sweaty, black-ashed firemen who now stomp across the foundation of my life?
- My Memories. Though I clutch the one photo album I was able to snatch in my free arm as I was dragged out by my other, everything else feels numb and void. How will I ever again come to recall the welcomed warmth that once oozed out from a door which no longer stands? Will I recall hide-and-seek with my little ones who loved a cupboard that no longer exists to open to them and provide refuge? Can my recall of my quiet evening trysts with my husband, once the kids were tucked away snugly (and safely?) in their beds, be snuffed beneath that flame? What if I forget all that I held preciously high once behind walls that have crumbled low to the ground?
- My Senses of Humor and Adventure. I used to long to run from my house, excited to go out into the vast world, full of unknowing. But that’s when I knew I could always return to my own little safe-haven here. And now, there will be no coming home. Fear seizes me, licking me up in its flames. Life was so carefree just a few hours ago, tears only streaming down from the laughter as little ribs wriggled under my tickling hands. Fear chokes the joy from my smoke-filled throat. To leave under these circumstances doesn’t feel like an adventure or offer me any reason to smile. Is this a death sentence, after all? There will be no return to my innocent life’s naivete.
- My Gratitude. Did I truly refer to those cloaked angels who just risked their lives for my family and our neighbors as ‘sweaty, black-ashed firemen stomping across the foundation of my life’? One of them is being treated for burn wounds now – while my family is not. Do their families lie awake at night, praying for their safety? Why can’t I gather the courage to approach the men choking at their trucks and offer a simple thank-you? Do my children wonder why I don’t go use the grateful words I’ve preached to them, day after fire-free day? I don’t even have the means on which to compose my thoughts and send them later, once my mind comes to a better place of rest. Or will it?
My Sense of Peace. Will I ever be able to fall asleep at night again? Or will I awake to pseudo-crackling sounds, hearing my house creaking in protest, trying to hold its posts – standing strong for its beloved occupants longer than its charred frame should allow? Can I ever bear to close my own bedroom door again; to be separated from those sweet, small faces crying and screaming out for me, clinging to my arms as I strip them free, dropping them in terror from an upstairs window, entrusting their care to others below? Or will I travel through this nightmarish hell, night after restless night, in my terrifying dreams? Will I ever want to warm myself near a campfire again? Oh, how long will it be until I can reclaim my mind’s peace?
I numbly sit, rocking tired, tiny bodies, wishing I had a place to lay my head – to wrap my mind around it all. How will I again gain control of my life? Then I remember. My life is not my own. Even my children’s lives do not belong to me. I Peter 1:3-7 reminds me that I should not rely on the things of this earth. None of them are meant to be a permanent structure in my being, so my peace and hope can’t come through such things. Even what seemed to be a safe, comfortable home is not – it will never fully meet my needs.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
It’s time for me to claim that peace that will only come through my LORD – to be thankful for those who have come to help, to care for those with whom I’ll make beautiful new memories, to recognize that there will be laughter once more, and to venture to stop trying so hard to be dignified. That is, after all, just self-glorification. In being His, I can simply learn to trust; learn to be satisfied. Carefree comes with a price – the price of losing my life…so I may find it (a better life – in Him). Maybe – just maybe – I’ll be refined by this fire, after all. A new life…a clean slate…a chance to rebuild from the ashes.