Okay, so it’s not quite that bad, but last week, my smoker hurled a fireball at me as I was preparing salmon I harvested last summer (Fish Bonkers and Other Fun Stuff), and instantly, some of my hair and most of my eyebrows and eyelashes turned to black grit and removed themselves from my person. Thanks to a crazy adrenaline rush, I finished smoking the salmon and making the side dishes and didn’t realize until later that this was kind of traumatic. But finally, it hit me that I could have been blown into oblivion, burned beyond recognition, taken down the whole house – my mind would not stop replaying the moment the hot blast hit my face. I went inside and told M and S, who was sharing our meal, “Y’all, I don’t think I’m okay. I mean, it could have been worse – a lot worse – but…”
My 16 year-old looked at me thoughtfully. “You know, Mom,” he said, “this makes me think of the 4th man in the fire. God protected you.”
M was referencing a story in the 3rd chapter of the book of Daniel about 3 men who would not bow down and worship King Nebuchadnezzar, so he threw them in a furnace lit 7 times hotter than normal. But a 4th man appeared in the flames, and the men emerged unscathed. The king, astonished, saw that the 4th man “looked like a son of the gods” and realized the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego had rescued them. The chapter ends with the king declaring, “No other God can save this way,” and promoting the 3 men in the province of Babylon.
Lots to unpack, there. And the last time I replayed the scenario, God changed it up. I saw it like I was watching a movie scene, and I saw a giant hand come between me and the smoker and block the flames from shooting out. All that actually hit me was hot air – definitely hot enough to singe my hair and redden my eyelids a bit – but no flames got near me. And that changed everything. My breathing slowed down, that sick feeling went away, and I started to remember the many times recently when the Lord made his presence known to me.
“So,” I said. “You were the 4th man in the…smoker?”
(Laughter) “Very good, daughter! And yes. I was also there when it looked like your life was falling apart over the last year and a half. I was behind the scenes, building, directing, and you are beginning to see the fruit of my labors. I heard very specific things you prayed, and I have honored those words – things you don’t want, things you do. I remember them all. I hear you, I know you, and I am always with you.”
I thought about being that 9 year-old kid lying on a driveway in Texas, trying to imagine the northern lights in the night sky above her, writing reports for school about Alaska, and then, as a teenager and later an adult, declaring, “I want to move to Alaska!” anytime temperatures rose or pollen counts exploded or she wanted to get away from crowds. I never really said it with any seriousness, or so I thought. But the Lord knew it was a dream in my heart, and in 2013, he asked if I still wanted to move to Alaska. He remembered. And I did.
And here I am, 8 years later, still in Alaska and loving it. My life DID fall apart, or at least, that’s how I would have framed it until very recently. What I’ve started to understand is that when you tell the Lord at an early age that your life belongs to him, he remembers. And he is quite intentional about keeping you with him, which means that things fall away. Bad things, even good things sometimes, that don’t align with his promises for you. Do we have choices to hang on to things? Sure we do. But my first choice was, is, and always will be him. I don’t want anything that interferes with that. So yeah, I experienced a lot of sadness over the past year and a half, a lot of mess, as my life became unentwined with someone who didn’t make the same choice I did. But God likes order, and he is cleaning up the loose ends quite nicely.
He has made me 3 promises recently. One has great momentum on it, one has a little bit, and one seems not to have started moving yet. His timing is beyond my understanding, and often my liking. But his words are not for nothing. So my Gwen-Stefani-circa-1995-eyebrows and I will continue to rejoice in the fact that the Lord is good, that he hears me, and he remembers desires and dreams and words I’ve forgotten I ever had.
I may not use my smoker for a while, though…