We had a wild and crazy end to our past week. One of those times when you wish you could hit rewind and have a chance to change events. But that isn’t an option. Instead, you have to move forward and trust God to get you through the good times and the hard times.
I did find out how hard trusting can be in those excruciatingly difficult moments, hours, even days.
On Thursday, my husband took me for an eye doctor appointment, over an hour drive from our house. After the appointment, we stopped for lunch when a neighbor called. He said there was a fire behind our house and our whole neighborhood had been evacuated.
We were over an hour from home. Our pets were there. No one would be able to get them out but us. A weight settled on my chest as I thought of the cats trapped in a house that might be burning, or our dog who could go in and out of the garage but would be so frightened at the flames roaring. Breathing became a chore as we contemplated what we could do from so far away.
I prayed on the interminable drive toward home. I wanted to trust God with my pets, with the people, with the homes in the area but I had trouble letting go and finding peace. That heaviness persisted, like a boulder resting on top of me.
By the time we got within two miles of our house we were stopped by a roadblock. Many of our neighbors were waiting by their cars watching the thick cloud of smoke boiling above our homes. Sudden bursts of black smoke in the midst of the gray and white plume told us something else caught fire. A home? A vehicle?
I argued with the men blocking the road, telling them we needed to check our pets. They wouldn’t let us in. we waited until after eight at night when they said we would not be allowed back in that day. We ended up driving forty-five miles that evening to spend the night with our brother-in-law. On the way, I prayed more, realizing we had no change of clothes, not even a toothbrush or toothpaste.
The next morning we were scheduled for our second Covid shot. As soon as that was done, we headed home. As we travel, we normally listen to an audiobook but this time neither of us could concentrate on the story. I spent the time praying.
The fire was still raging. We hoped to see less smoke but the thick cloud was the same with the intermittent black burst that spoke of some new structure catching fire.
We checked in at the command center and were told they were escorting people to their homes one at a time depending on the area you lived in and if it was safe. We waited for an hour before our turn came. I had argued with them (politely) that we wanted to go in and be at our home. One of the men we talked with tried to stop the officer from taking us home, but he was too late.
When we got to our place, we would have fifteen minutes to check on our pets, feed and water them, and gather a few things. My husband started checking things immediately while I talked with the deputy who followed us to our house. I told him we were going to stay unless they would arrest us. He had to call in to see what they said, but they couldn’t arrest us, although they would not come back in to rescue us either.
He was not happy with our choice. He pulled out a notebook, wrote down our address, and asked for our names. He said, “That way we know who you are when we have to come back and scrape you up.” I laughed. I assured him we would be careful and thanked him for doing his job.
Somewhere during the past day, my prayers had changed my attitude. Trust had settled in, easing the weight from my chest. I knew God was there. I knew He had our best interests in mind. We had previously lost two homes to disasters, and I knew that no matter what, God would see us through.
That was a long day. We had no power or gas service so my husband set up the generators to give us minimal power and water. No hot water, but that was okay. We checked on neighbors who had chosen to stay. We drove around in the evening to see the damage and were horrified at the number of houses destroyed completely. We knew many of those who lost their homes and it’s so sad to see. (In all a dozen homes in our small community were destroyed.)
What did I learn from this experience? I learned that neighbors are good people who pull together and help each other. (We had a fire start in the overgrown lot behind our house. The neighbors on the other side saw the fire and carried their pool water to put it out. Otherwise, we would both have lost our homes.)
I saw the sovereignty of God in action. Not all homes were spared but all lives were spared.
And I learned that trust doesn’t always come immediately when we pray. Sometimes through a lot of prayer that trust trickles in unnoticed until you are resting in His grace and mercy and have no worries even when the flames are licking high and breathing the smoke hurts your chest.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” Prov. 3:5
There is no way my understanding can grasp why this happened. But I am thankful for the prayers of family and friends that carried us through. I am thankful God was there even when my trust in Him faltered.
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” 2 Cor. 4:7-9
These words from Paul in 2 Corinthians wove through my thoughts this past weekend. The picture above is one taken of our white house and barn by the Forest Service and Fire Management people and shared across the internet. When I saw the flames right there, I knew only the power of prayer and the grace of God kept our home from burning.
Why were others not spared? I don’t know. But I am grateful to learn this lesson of trust and grateful to all God taught me through this experience.
Trust in God. He is worthy.