Friday, May 6, 2016

A Better Shelter

This isn't a normal post.  I don't even know if it will be coherent.  It's essentially the beginning of what I've been processing over the past 72 hours.

Most of you know what my family and I, as well as Sarah (our friend and renter), have been going through.  Around 4:30 PM, Monday evening, we had a grease fire.  I had placed a skillet filled with oil on the burner and went to ask Heather a question.  I got distracted, only to hear the smoke alarm a few moments later.  I ran in to turn the burner off, but when I got into the kitchen, the smoke I expected to see was not there.  Instead, it was a wall of flame engulfing our home.

Where the "wall of flame" did the most damage.
There are a lot of other things that I remember from that day.  Running out of the house telling people to call 911, asking neighbors to give us their fire extinguishers.  I remember the heat on my bare feet as I tried to put out the fire with said extinguisher, the smoke that filled my lungs and that stained my skin and clothes, the fear that I would lose my home, the joy of having neighbors and the fire department coming to our rescue (and knowing that Jesus orchestrated every detail for His Glory).

But it's the trauma that has stuck with me.  The trauma of walking in to see my house going up in flames.  The trauma of trying to fight a fire.  The trauma of knowing that, with all my grit, will, and determination, I still didn't have a chance to win.

In the words of Nick Fury in the Avengers, "I was hilariously outgunned."

I knew I would feel certain things in the aftermath; the guilt of letting the fire happen, feeling the shame of irresponsibility, the sense of loss, even grappling with despair.  But I've wrestled with all of those emotions to some capacity before.  The shock and awe of discovering a fire and then attempting to fight it?  Wrestling with trauma is something I've never had to deal with before.

The first night I attempted to sleep, but every time I closed my eyes I would see walls of flames.  I can't explain it, but I could even 'feel' the heat.  Then I would see the horror of what could have been: my children, my wife lost in the flames.  I feel it when I hear the crackle of oil on the stove top at our neighbor's house.  I sense it when I hear the word 'fire.'  Even the smell and taste of smoke has moved me to fear.

Yet I will praise God.  One day, God will heal me.  I won't fear the flame, the smoke, or the stove.  I can all ready see it happening.  The guilt that I'm tempted to wrack myself with is dissipating.  The shame is fading.  And when I step back, even in the moments when I rebel in my mind and am clouded in emotion, there is amazing joy.

"I have a shelter in the storm
When troubles pour upon me
Though fears are rising like a flood
My soul can rest securely
O Jesus, I will hide in You
My place of peace and solace
No trial is deeper than Your love
That comforts all my sorrows."
-- I Have a Shelter, Sovereign Grace Music  

The psalms constantly describe God as a refuge, a shelter, and a place to hide.  My earthly dwelling will fail me, but God will not.  "Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!" (34:8b).  

I'm sure I will have more reflections on this as I continue to process.  I hope they are helpful for you.  I know they are helpful for me.  Thanks for joining me on my processing journey.