I've only been in one fight in my entire life...and it didn't end well for me..I got beat up. I'm not ashamed to admit it. My twin sister fought my battles for me. If she saw someone picking on me, she challenged them to a battle...and she usually won. So I let her fight my battles for me. Whenever she felt that I was vulnerable, she confronted my enemies on the playground, on the school bus and even in the classroom.
Well, If you've ever experienced a house fire, then you can attest to the feeling that slowly creeps up on you when the fire is put out, the smell of ash remains, and the cleaning crew is gone--
It's the feeling of being vulnerable...and alone.
Re-building a life after a tragedy, no matter how small, is draining. Little decisions are slow to make. Even the simplest of choices feel overwhelming. Emotions run high...and it's usually not the pleasant ones, either.
Then, there's the task of re-building--which means assessing damage, adding up the figures and then deciding on the work that needs to be done. These past few weeks, I have often felt helpless, not knowing what to do or what to believe. Then there are the doubts in my mind that tempt me to think that we are still not safe in our own home. I woke up every night this week and, through bleary eyes, instinctively looked toward our bedroom window where I first saw smoke streaming into our house.
But in the midst of my emotional rollercoaster, the Lord led me to the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was a very important official in the citadel of Susa. He was cupbearer to the king. You know the one who tested the king's wine for poison? If the wine was poisonous, guess who ended up dead...you got it, and it wasn't the king! Talk about a vulnerable position.
At the very beginning of the book, a report comes to Nehemiah that the walls around Jerusalem had been broken down, and its gates had been burned with fire. (Chapter 1:1-3) Nehemiah's first response was to weep, then to pray for his people. (verses 4-10). But he bravely went before king Artexeres and requested a long-term leave of absence to attend to his people's needs. Permission is granted, so he leaves (Chapter 2).
All goes according to plan initially, until some enemies of his people start threatening their rebuilding. They are naysayers who begin to add to the feeling of vulnerability. They are the thoughts in our minds after we realize that even though God spared us "Now What?!" How do we know something like this won't happen again? What if it does? What if it's worse the next time?
Opposition to the Rebuilding
7 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. 8 They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. 9 But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.
10 Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.”
11 Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.”
12 Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.”
13 Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. 14 After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
15 When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our own work.
16 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah 17 who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, 18 and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.
19 Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. 20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!”
God has shown me, through His word, that when we feel attacked (physically or otherwise), we fight and it's through prayer. I love to pray. Maybe that's why those of us who love to pray are called prayer warriors, because it is an act of fighting. Scripture also states that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (KJV) or things we cannot see.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; 3For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,…
While the feeling of vulnerability is unavoidable, as long as we are on this side of Heaven, it gives me comfort to know that the primary way that God wants us to fight against fear is through prayer. Even though I may not be able to rebuild our home, I can do the more important thing: carry my weapon of prayer to fight my fears, lean on God's Word for confidence and, come what may, stand in the spiritual gap for my family and my home.
Just after midnight on Friday, May 1st my dear family and I experienced a house fire! I am unable to describe in words, what went on, but in images, the story is startling. While most of the house remained unscathed, the garage took the brunt of the damage and the entire house was filled with smoke as the firefighters went to work.
The Hershey Fire Department is volunteer. Engine 48 is its house, and quite a few of the men and women who came to our rescue are people that I know...some are fellow housefathers whom Andy & I worked alongside for many years. Others are folks who coach in town on sports league of which my children belong.
They are all heroes.
What makes a hero?? I define a hero as someone who defies the odds and performs something supernatural for the sake of saving someone else's life.
While my children and husband backed away from our beloved burning house, men and women ran in to save it. In the closed up garage stood our gold Toyota Prius with half of a tank of gas in it. One firefighter asked for the keys so that he could back it out of the flames that had engulfed it. The car runs fine because it never caught fire.
How did the fire start? An electrical wire caught fire in the rear of the garage due to a faulty swimming pool pump timer. In the picture below, firefighters are inspecting what they believe is the source of the flame.
We were in fact home when the fire started...in fact we were just heading to bed when the kids and I smelled smoke. Ironically, my kids had asked me earlier if they could go to the midnight showing of the newest Marvel's "Avengers", but I said no because I had work in the morning. It's interesting because looking back--I suppose we DID get to see some Super Heroes after all!
Thanks, Engine 48 for your tireless commitment. We appreciate you so much!
~The Slamans Family