Some of you may know that recently, my family’s home and life were in danger of fire. That’s right, there was a prairie fire furiously eating up the dry prairie grass as it rushed toward homes, barns, corrals and yes, our home as well.
A few days ago, my youngest daughter and I were coming home from her soccer game, and as we left the highway to continue on the paved road that headed east toward our dirt roads, we could see in the distance the tell-tale signs of a fire burning on the high prairies – which is where our home is. We called my eldest daughter who was at home, and our anxious surmisings were confirmed. There was a fire burning on the bluffs south and west of our house. It was relatively small at this point, and so she was going to drive south down our road to figure out what was going on. We picked up our speed. As we drove, we scrutinized brush and trees to try to confirm which way the wind was blowing. We finally saw an American flag high up on a pole. It was streaming, almost without a flicker of movement, straight north. When we finally finished bumping over dirt roads that jogged north, east and north again to our road, we could tell that whatever size the fire had been several minutes ago, it had grown significantly. Our hearts beat faster as we saw the blowing, billowing mass of white and brown smoke. As we headed north to our house, we realized just how big and bad this fire was. The smoke was so bad there were times when we could not see the road ahead of us. There were times we could not see the houses that were set back on the acreages. Were these houses up in flames? We did not know. But what I really wanted to find out was whether or not my eldest daughter, who was farther north up the road, was safe. Thinking that she had already driven south to check out the fire, I frantically called her to tell her to head back north. She had not left the house yet and was astounded at the quick growth of the fire. She called her daddy for further instruction. I kept heading north on my side of the fire to try to get to our house. Behind me quite a distance, a fire truck was quickly following in my path. I kept up my intense speed to satisfy my frantic longing to see what I could not see.
All of a sudden, fire came roaring down the prairie and stretched and strained its red hot oxygen-grabbing fingers over the road in front of me as if it wanted to continue its journey on the other side. Of all the horrifying images of that day, this is the one that is always ready to intrude back into my mind.
I turned the van around and heading back south so that I could take a westerly road that would lead me to a road heading north again on the west side of the fire. From there I would be able to head east then south again to approach our house from the north. This fire-induced detour seemed to take forever, but finally we reached the house and were unimaginably relieved to see that though the fire had come close, it had not reached our property, and that the flames had been virtually extinguished. I was also so greatly relieved to see my eldest daughter calmly using the hose to create a fire barrier around our house should the flames revive themselves. The rest of the houses and buildings on our road were unharmed, but the black charred prairie gave evidence of a fire that came way too close to these structures.
This fiery orange, destructive and rushing fire that tried to get more fuel for its lifework has made me ponder. Fire can be good. When we are cold, we enjoy our fireplaces. When we want a yummy meal, we cook out over a fire. When we want to celebrate a birthday, we light birthday candles on a cake. The sun is a ball of fire, and the beautiful, twinkling stars are fire orbs as well. We can even use fire to put out fires. But fire can be bad as well. It is destructive. It can burn. It can kill.
In the Holy Scriptures, we read about fire. We read that a small spark can produce a whole lot of fire. We read that our tongues are compared to this small spark. We can say one small, unedifying thing and start a whole lot of problems. We read that God showed himself to Moses in the burning bush that was not consumed by the heat of the flames. We read that God kept His people safe at night on their travels to the Promised Land by placing a pillar of fire at night between them and their enemies. We read of fire and brimstone coming down from heaven to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomora. We read that God sent fire down from heaven onto an altar to show the Israelites that He was God, and that Baal was only an idol made by men’s hands. We read of the fire on the beach on which Jesus was cooking fish for the nourishment of his hungry disciples. We read that the gates of hell (from which flames of fire reach undyingly in an attempt to feed on God’s people) will not prevail against God’s church. We read in the book of Revelation that in the vision given to John, God has eyes like fire, and His feet are like burning brass. We read that Satan, that devil who roams the earth now, seeking whom he may devour, will, at the end of time, be thrown into the lake of burning fire, along with all those who worship and serve him. We read that in the last days, the earth will be destroyed by fire. We read that in the new heavens and the new earth, there will be no need of a ball of fire giving light to us, but rather the Son of God, Who is the light, will be the only light we will need.
Fire. So powerful. So descriptive of many truths of God. The next time you see flames, and I hope that it is not in the form of a prairie fire, think of the many ways that God uses fire to teach us truths about Himself. Deeply meditate on those truths and consider how they pertain to your relationship with Him.