Today’s running workout was around the theme of “fire”.
It’s been nearly a month since my wife and I were awaken in the middle of the night. The cell phone next to her side of the bed rang and startled both of us. I was barely awake, but I remember her turning to me saying, “The Brasser’s house is on fire….“. Without thinking, I reached across the floor in the darkness and found my running shoes. Within seconds, I had the shoes on and was out the door.
I’ve been to many a bonfire in my life. Mostly, they were related to sporting events like Army – Navy spirit week at West Point when I was a cadet. Or, more recently, while I was camping with my two boys at the annual Pack 55 Cub Scout “Cuboree”. But I promise you that nothing will prepare you when you see something like your neighbor’s home a towering glow of burning timbers. Luckily, our dear friends, Megan and Richard Brasser, along with their four children, escaped in the nick of time. They were standing across the street when I arrived, all their eyes fixated on the burning home. At one point, I counted ten fire trucks parked along the street, working on the blaze that would take about 30 minutes to extinguish.
I think it was sometime around 3:30 in the morning, when everything had died down, and most of the neighbors had gone back to their homes. Richard, Megan and I stood in the middle of the street, watching the fire fighters pull piles of smoldering debris from the home. The children had gone to my in-laws house just around the corner. I can only imagine what they were thinking. Richard turned to me at one point and said, “You know….you always imagine if you’re caught in a house fire that you’ll be able to grab this or that. We literally grabbed the kids and headed out the door.” The fire inspectors would later tell us that had the Brassers hesitated another 3 minutes or so, they might have been trapped inside.
My heart stops when I think about that part…..
Fire. It destroys. It brings chaos. And many times, it kills. The Bible is full of stories about fire. John the Baptist tells of someone greater than him who will come to baptize those with the Holy Spirit and with fire. In Exodus, the voice of God can be heard from within the flames of a burning bush. The book of Acts, of course, talks about tongues of fire. And in Hebrews, we are told of our God as a “consuming fire”.
Probably, most of us think about fire in the Bible as the alternative to Heaven….Hell, which is described as a place where the fire is never quenched.
Simply said, many of you have a negative perception of fire. On the flip-side, fire can purify. Fire can sterilize. Fire provides warmth in the cold and provides light in the darkness.
Fire took away our friends’ home that terrible evening. And while this tragedy will stay with many of us for a very long time, the fire brought out some goodness as I’ve never seen. Almost immediately, the next day, piles of clothing, gift cards, and food began to accumulate on my in-laws front porch for the Brasser family. Sign up lists were constructed to provide meals for the family. A car was loaned. Youth sports teams began fund-raisers. And distractions were slowly removed to allow Megan and Richard to focus on the daunting tasks of insurance claims, investigations, and moving on with their lives.
Fire brought us together that night. Fire has reminded us to be thankful. Fire made us caring neighbors. Fire warmed our hearts and sterilized our souls.
One afternoon, just a couple days after the fire, we were sitting on my in-laws front porch talking with the Brassers about what they were able to salvage from the ashes. Megan described going into one of the rooms that was covered with charred walls and soot. Somehow, in the midst of the black and grey, Megan discovered a white linen shirt or perhaps one their youngest child’s dresses, hanging untouched from the fire. She told us how the purity of that linen stood out among the charred remains of the rest of the room. Why that cloth was left unscathed we may never know. Megan described the image as seeing an “angel” in the midst of the ashes.
Maybe the fire fighters caught that room at just the right moment and the white linen was saved. Or, perhaps, there really was an angel that night….and the purity of the linen was a reminder left behind to help us all through the days ahead.
I’ll let you be the judge on that one….