"A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance."
John 10:10 (HCSB)
When I was nine years old, we lost our house and all our earthly possessions to a fire. My Grandma McKown had just bought Nicol and me a beautiful bedroom set with canopy beds. We each had a matching desk and shared a large chest of drawers. Our bedroom was upstairs in our old farmhouse, while our brother, Todd, and our parents slept downstairs.
It was November in western Michigan with a predicted frost. We had happily settled down to watch one of our favorite TV shows, The Waltons, while our mom lit an oil space heater to keep our water pipes from freezing. Ten minutes later, she ran into the family room to see one entire wall of the house being consumed by angry, red flames. In thirty minutes, the entire house was engulfed in fire. With the ambivalence of a child, I asked a question I already knew the answer to:
"Mom, will our canopy beds be there in the morning?"
My mother could only look at me sadly and say, "Honey, we'll have to wait and see."
Mercifully, I slept through the remainder of that night. I remember waking up the next morning in my Grandma Smith's trailer, situated behind our house on our ten acres of property. I walked into her tiny living room to see my mom already up. I asked her the question I had asked the night before, hoping against hope that she would assure me that all was well and that my canopy bed with my beloved Fisher-Price doll, Annie, would be waiting for me. The look in her eyes made me run to the door of the trailer and fling it wide open.
My eyes fell on the smoldering ruins of the collapsed four walls which had housed all that was dear to my little girl heart. The house had always seemed so tall to me, at least 100 feet in the air, to my girlish judgment. Now all was black and hissing with none of my treasures recognizable to me. (The ruins of our home)
I felt completely violated. It was as if the fire had become a flesh and blood thief, stealing from me my childish ignorance of its power to devastate my world. The fire had come in the night, quenching out our screams for help in the frigid air.
I have been able to analyze my feelings of the last nine days and have come to realize that I feel that a thief has come to steal, kill, and destroy. My soul feels as vulnerable and exposed as I did the day after the fire--more so, because what was taken from us was not just a canopy bed or a beloved play thing this time. A soul with a little body that we loved so much has been snatched from us by the thief called death. There was no warning, no time to prepare. The thief did its ugly work in an unknown amount of time, but has left its devastation as apparent to our family as the charred walls of our farmhouse. And my soul is reeling under the shattered hope that the following morning would tell me that all was well, even though I had already been told that the thief had come during the night.
What came out of the fire? I wish I could say that the road got smoother. Thirteen months after we lost our home, we were in the throes of culture shock in the Congo. It was never an easy life there. It still isn't. But I can truthfully say that the words of Isaiah have been fulfilled in the wake of the ravaging flames that stole from me all that was dear:
"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated..." Isaiah 61:1-4
There is something that the thief cannot take away from the children of the King of heaven. The thief steals, kills, and destroys only that which can be rebuilt by Jesus Christ who promises abundant life in place of the devastation. The book of Revelation tells me that He is the One who makes all things new. Jesus is the One who can cause streams to flow in the desert of my soul, and who promises His presence through the fire so that I do not even smell of its smoke. I can escape and keep what the thief can never take from me. Ultimately, death itself will be thwarted in the end. We shall behold Him and all questions will be answered. The light of His glory will replace the sun. No sickness, grief, or destruction will ever be allowed to enter into the gates of the place that He has promised that He is preparing for me. Death will be no more and its violating sting will be eradicated forever.
Jesus, thank You that You have the power to rebuild all that the thief has destroyed in my life. My salvation is secure in powerful Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth who will one day right all wrongs. Be my security, my strong tower in this troubling time. Make all things new as You give beauty out of these ashes.