My heart has a great sadness it can no longer contain. Our city is on fire. My family is not in danger, but my emotions are raw.
Saturday morning, I got a text from my husband saying he’d seen a fire near Garden of the Gods. By Saturday evening, it was a 600 acre wild-fire causing evacuations of smaller towns on the outskirts of Colorado Springs. On our date that evening, Matt and I discussed what we would take if we were ordered to evacuate. On Sunday, I began receiving text messages and e-mails from family and friends asking if we were alright – they had seen it on the national news. Sunday evening, we could smell the faintest traces of smoke at our house and see flames on the hills in the distance. On Monday morning, it almost looked to be slowing down, but by that afternoon it was once again raging. On Tuesday, horrifying photos and prayer requests for rain flooded facebook. Tuesday evening, I walked to the mailbox and noticed a strong southward wind, smoke was a little thicker in my neighborhood, and there was a smoke alarm sounding from one of my neighbor’s homes, presumably from smoke entering through an open window.
Then, last night around 7:30 my husband got a call to return to work so that his unit could establish and man shelters for personnel being evacuated from the Air Force Academy. When he left, the boys weren’t just upset about Daddy missing bed time, the smoke in the distance became a real fear for them. They asked questions like “Are we going to have to evacuate?”, “Will our house burn down?, and “Are we going to die?” So, I spoiled them just a little more than usual and put them to bed, then I broke my own rule… I turned on the news. And I could hardly tear myself away from it. Roads blocked by police cruisers to prevent people from returning to evacuated areas. Fires burning out of control, consuming what could only be homes. The interstate closed for stretches to facilitate speedy evacuations. Or from facebook statuses of friends whose husbands were out helping to evacuate citizens from their homes, or friends of friends who were evacuating and then hearing that their homes had burned. Finally, I forced myself to switch it off and go up to my once again empty bed. Matt didn’t return home until after midnight and left again this morning before I was fully awake.
My usual routine in the morning is to quickly check my e-mail and delete the accumulated spam while my coffee is brewing and then break out my bible and prayer journal. This morning, as I sat in my chair, I reached instead for the remote to turn the news back on. I am seldom thankful for cartoons, but this morning two of my childrens’ shows were set to record at the same time, making it impossible to change the channel without disappointing them. This gave me the 15 seconds of pause to realize that what I really needed to be doing was praying.
My mind was totally pre-occupied by fire, so I decided to see what the bible had to say about it. The word fire is referenced 53 times in my concordance (though I would venture to say it is mentioned much more often than that), and only three of those listed are in the book of Revelation. It has been used as a guide, an illustration in prophecy and parables, a warning, a method for refining precious metals, it has been used to explain in the power of the untamed tongue to send us to hell, as judgement cast down by God in the end times, and many more. But the one story that caught my attention this morning was in Daniel Chapter 3.
Three friends of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, were granted positions of authority in Babylon after Daniel impressed King Nebuchadnezzar with his dream interpretation. They refused to obey the King’s edict to worship a massive gold idol. The punishment for this disobedience was being thrown in the fiery furnace. So, when these three men’s infraction was brought to the King’s attention, he gave them one more chance to obey. The three refused once again, declaring that their God was greater than anything King Nebuchadnezzar’s god could ever be. As the trio were thrown into the furnace, they bowed down and called out to the one true God and He sent His angel who appeared like the Song of God to safely walk them out. The bible says, not one hair on their heads was singed, nor did they even smell of fire – a true testament to the saving power of God. Afterward, King Nebuchadnezzar was so astonished he finally conceded that the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego should be the only one the people would serve or worship, “…because there is no other God who can deliver like this.”
God used the trial of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego to prosper the King and his whole land by turning their worship to the one true God. God did spare their lives, but even as they walked into that furnace those three courageous men of God didn’t know His plan for their lives, but they remained obedient and faithful even if it meant the end of their lives on earth.
It gave me hope to read how God could use what appeared to be certain death for those three to bring glory to His kingdom. How then could He be working this fire into His master plan? With evacuees estimated at over 32,000, more than 15,000 acres burned or burning, homes destroyed, people scared and in need, it seems hard, even for me sitting safely on the periphery of the horror, to find the silver lining in the great clouds of smoke over Colorado Springs. I was reminded about a discussion yesterday at PWOC where a woman who had been through brain surgery talked about how God used her tragedy to bolster others who were called to action on her behalf.
Not long after considering how the community might rally to help those who were forced to abandon their homes, someone posted to facebook that one of the shelters on post was in need of toys for the children staying there. This was my undoing. All the emotions that had been brewing for days spilled from my eyes at the thought of bewildered children in a gym with only what possessions their parents could gather in 30 minutes surrounding the cots to which they had laid claim. Over and over in my head, I kept repeating the words of Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” It brought me comfort and I was so thankful for the request I had made last week for God to help me begin memorizing scriptures. Even as I was packing a box through my tears, another message was posted requesting volunteers and those wishing to donate to stand by and wait for their unit to contact them directly.
I was disappointed that this was not my avenue to help and once again waiting to be called to service. I am challenged by Psalm 46:10, too. I have no problem with the “know that I am God part.” It is the “Be still” that I do not do well. So, I began this blog. A little while later when my husband called, I jumped at the chance to take our dog kennel to the shelter his unit was operating. Almost 5 hours later, I was officially contacted by my unit with a list of specific requests and instructions for ways to assist. Doing something, no matter how small, makes me feel better. It keeps me from dwelling on the horrors that face people in my community as a helpless bystander.
Even though this is not my personal tribulation, it is having a profound effect on me. I feel somehow unworthy of sharing my feelings because I cannot even begin to comprehend the depth of emotions felt by people who are in danger as they fight the fires or evacuate and protect citizens, or by those who have lost nearly all of their worldly possessions. I cannot venture to guess how I would react if faced with the devastation they are experiencing. Would I be strong in the Lord, or crumble when faced with adversity? Would I praise him for keeping my family and me safe from harm? Would I take stock of what is truly important in life or grieve for the loss of so much? Would I curse God for bringing such hardship upon us? Or would I trust him to reveal how He would use this tragedy to bring glory to His kingdom?
I would hope that I would recite, like a mantra, Romans 5:3-4, “And not only that, but that we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character hope.” And then also remember that the greatest hope we have the promise of heaven secured for us by Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. All else on earth pales in comparison with that. I would hope that I would glorify my God faithfully with every breath I had for His power to save me. Not His power to save me from the fire, but His power to deliver me from my own sin and bring me ultimately to my heavenly home, just as Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego did.
For now, I will be grateful that we are not directly affected by this disaster. I will wait for another opportunity to serve those who are. And I will pray for safety for those in danger while fighting the fires and protecting the people, for comfort and peace for all those who have lost so much already, and for God to reveal to us how He is using this to bring glory to His Kingdom.