When Life Burns… What We Could Do for Each Other

When that chimney started on fire, right up the center of the house, right up through center of my bedroom, I heard my Dad holler.




Heard the roar, heard that fire roaring just behind the yellow bricks there in my room.

That yellow brick road that you could follow straight up to the sky.

I curled my toes up tight under my nightie. Pulled my knees to my chin, pressed my back up against the wall near the window, near the cool. You could feel the heat off the chimney that drove up through the room. My sister wound small under blankets, pulled the sheets up over her head. As if you can hide from fire.

Why doesn’t anyone tell you? That whenever you want to stick your head in the sand — is when you need to stick your hand out for help.

That fear only happens when you try to go alone. It’s why all the angels always come with light and say do not be afraid. It’s why He says I am always with you and I won’t ever forsake.

I’d reached through the heat for my sister’s hand.

I’d reached for my sister’s hand when we’d drove away from that locked psychiatric ward, when we’d left my mama behind, and there were kids wailing and there was gnashing of teeth and there were bite marks torn right through the car seat to prove it.

Don’t ever think different: Hurt is a contagion.When one person hurts in a family, everyone aches. There is no one who doesn’t feel the heat of the flames. The singe of sickness, the sear of sadness, the way one person can ache and everyone feel it in their veins. My mama cried behind closed doors.  I rocked on in the closet.

But Becomers, they don’t pull away from the suffering but lean into it, “knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope and hope does not disappoint” (Ro. 5:1)  and there is no. other. way. You can’t call yourself Christian, one of Christ’s, and live trying to make wide circles around pain.  You don’t close your eyes to the hurting, pretend the wounded don’t exist.

To follow Christ means to follow Christ into suffering, not onto easy street.

To be a Christian means to suffer — that’s what Christ did.

Dad hollered at us to get out of the house, to get out the front door, that that chimney was roaring and who knew when the whole thing could go and I pulled my sister in. And I had said that, felt it all through my teens into my twenties– that depression is like a room engulfed in flames and you can’t breathe for the sooty smoke smothering you limp. That suicide is deciding there no way but to  jump straight out of the burning building.That when the unseen scorch on the inside finally sears intolerably hot —  you think a desperate lunge from the flames and this land of the living seems the lesser of two unbearables.

And God? That’s what God had said: “Save others by snatching them from the fire.” Jude 1:23

To the mama who’s singed with overwhelm, the kid whose burned by bad decisions, to the girl who feels like damaged goods and the woman who can’t breathe for hopelessness —

Feel their flame and feel their heat and the people of God face fires.

That’s what we do. You fight fire with fire and the people who have fire in their bones are called to fight the fires of this world.

There’s a teen right down the hall in his own lake of fire right now, a woman in the back pew wanting out, a girl on some street corner looking ways and no one is coming.

Every follower of Christ — is called to follow Christ into the lake of someone’s fire and hold out a hand. That’s our calling.

“Save others by snatching them from the fire.”

You can’t be anyone’s Savior. But you can be someone’s prayer warrior.

Let God be God and you be His serviceperson. Because the thing is — the hottest flame is aloneness and you snatch someone from the fire by simply grabbing their hand.

That chimney roared like a monster, like it was going to swallow us up, and Dad, he kept hollering for us to come, like he didn’t know that sometimes you’ve just got to take the time to go find someone and show them how to move their feet. Show them that ultimately pain can never be escaped from, only passed on, until it reaches a Cross.

That there is never an escape from pain — suicide, drugs, alcohol, addictions, distractions — nothing on this planet eradicates pain. You can’t escape pain — you can only pass pain on, or nail it to a Cross.

Until pain is taken to the Cross, until pain is absorbed into a cross, pain is always passed on…. passed back and around and on.

Someone’s got to take up a cross. Someone’s got to take it to Jesus.

Mama found Him and He lifted the weight, and her, and carried and when she laughs now I think glory. The way her eyes glint like her silver crown and laughter can rise like a resurrection. Like a miracle right out of fire. And I pray with a friend, pray a thousand times, for the miracle of medication to recalibrate a delicate balance of chemicals, and I fight my own heat with a pen and ink and praise for a thousand graces, because there’s an enemy who tries to turn every fire to destroy your faith —  when every fire can kindle your fervency for your first love Who never lets you go.

And that night in the dark, my sister and I held on to each other, clung, and we pushed past that glowing chimney and it’s thundering rumble of flame and it’s true, what the Becomers and the Survivors made Thrivers know —

Burden is only a weight when borne alone.  When the burden is borne together, by a Body, the burden becomes bond — soul strengthener.

Out on the lawn, you could see the flame shooting higher.

And I just kept holding my sister in the dark, holding on, that promise of presence regardless….




What Christians need to know about Mental Health

Letters to the Wounded

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