No Smell of Smoke

The summer between my junior and senior years of college, I interned at WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing House in Colorado Springs. For the first two weeks I was there, I kept busy exploring the nearby parks and mountains on my evenings and weekends. But then on June 23, the Waldo Canyon forest fire began.

Over the next week, thirty-two thousand people were evacuated from the city as the fire grew from a spark into a monster that killed two people and ate up 346 homes and more than 18,000 acres of land. I remember one afternoon in particular, standing with several co-workers in a west-facing office with floor-to-ceiling windows and watching the fire skip rapidly down the mountain. That night as I drove back to the house where I was staying, the sky was orange from one horizon to the other.

This must be what an apocalypse looks like, I remember thinking.

For several nights in a row, I lay in bed and mentally planned out what I would do if we were suddenly called upon to evacuate. For me, it was fairly simple. I would toss all of my six weeks’ worth of clothes into my suitcase, jump in my car, and drive east. For those actually living in the houses around me, I’m sure the choice would have been much more difficult. Do I take my photo albums or my family heirlooms? Which of our clothes should we take? How do we make sure our kids know what to do in case of an emergency?

Maybe four or five days into the fire, I was driving and listening to a worship CD. I don’t remember the song titles now, but I swear two or three in a row talked about God being a consuming fire or asking God to set our hearts on fire. I was half laughing, but I also kept hitting “skip” because I couldn’t picture God as a fire at that moment without being legitimately terrified.

Something brought that memory to mind the other day—I’m not sure what. But then the following passage came to mind also.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

Walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed—and there was no smell of fire on them. The idea of a God of consuming fire still terrifies me. But these verses made me pause. Our God is a consuming fire, yes. But when it is His fire we are engulfed by, we will not be destroyed. It may be hard, it may be scary, but when we surrender ourselves to His good will, we will come out on the other side not even smelling like smoke.

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