As darkness began to set, it was both horrifying and oddly beautiful to watch the firestorm race across the hillsides of our community. From the deck in my backyard, I had a front row view as the fire seemed to devour everything in its path. As brush and huge trees caught fire, I could see homes, shops and propane tanks flare up in flames. The sound of the spreading fire was like the roar of jet engines. As the feeling of complete helplessness wanted to settle in, I, and no doubt many in our community and beyond, prayed for protection of lives and property.
Even as the hellish flames spread, stories emerged about lives saved, homes lost and protected. Homeowners, neighbors, and firefighters did their best to minimize loss and damage. As morning light came, the extent of destruction became evident. Many families had lost everything but the clothes on their body. As I drove up a road in the burned out area, I saw the mangled mess of burned buildings still smoldering.
But I also saw the properties that “almost” burned. The fire had licked up close to the homes, but they did not catch fire. Mumbling, I began to thank God for answering the prayers offered by so many. I turned into the narrow driveway of one of our friends, with tree stumps and fencepost still smoldering. I observed grass burned up close to the house on all sides, but the home, garage and outbuildings were unharmed. Our friend had evacuated; nobody had been there to fight the fire! Next morning at church, she gave thanks to God and described that she felt God had put a dome over her home, a dome of protection.
Does that mean God doesn’t love or care for those who lost so much? Not at all!
We are not assured of a trouble free life, but of the fact that Creator God is with us no matter what we go through. The prophet Isaiah spoke these words to the people of Israel: “When (not if) you walk through the fire, you will not be burned…” We are not spared the storms of life but we are always assured that God is with us in the storm. Sometimes he quiets the storm, at other times he quiets us in the storm.
In the midst of much heartache, we are beginning to remember what is important, how fragile life is, how quickly things can change, how important love, care and relationships are. Much of the burned “stuff” can be replaced. Life and friendship, faith and trust even survive the untamed forces of nature. What is Creator God saying to us?
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” C.S. Lewis
Volkhard Graf is a pastor with Youth With A Mission in Kamiah.