It doesn’t take much to put my whole life back into perspective–just a blacksmith, an alarm, and 150 little fear-filled faces. Well, maybe it was much.
The Firestorm of Life
The past few months have been a firestorm. Life is hectic. Teaching is demanding. Editing is all-consuming. And meaningful parenting moments have been reduced to reviewing Bible verses as we zoom down the highway, headed to school. As we wives, mothers, teachers, writers, and women are so prone to do, we become goal oriented and detail driven. Driven by details and goals that are no more than wood, hay, and stubble. Unaware that all around us, slowly the heat is rising. We have no idea that our world is about to burn.
But sometimes, sometimes…God has mercy. Instead of a fire, He sends the smoke to warn us–the smoke to surround those we love, to imprint the pungent odor into our senses, to permeate the fibers in our clothes, so that we don’t forget…we don’t forget what could have happened, and we don’t forget what really matters in life. We never forget.
The Calm Before the Storm
Yesterday was that day of mercy. We were in a chapel service at the Christian school where I teach, where my son attends Kindergarten, and where my dad is on the administrative staff. I was enjoying watching my son sing “How Great is our God” along with about 100 other Grammar school children. The parents who had come for chapel were standing behind their children. The teachers were standing and singing with their classes. It was a peaceful moment, giving praise to the Lord.
Now, the song means so much more.
We hadn’t finished the first chorus when the fire alarm sounded. Of course we first thought it was a drill, but the realization quickly hit that the administration would never drill during chapel. The sinking feeling set in that this was real. We began an orderly exit, but the teachers realized it would be faster to divide the classes and send them out 3 separate doors. My third grade class was split with another teacher and my son was separated from his kindergarten class and from me. As soon as we got outside, we smelled smoke and saw it filling the air. I can’t explain the feeling I had in my heart. The thought that fire was actually burning our building was nearly too much to think about. But as I mentioned, sometimes God has mercy.
On this day, we were having a blacksmith present his trade to our classes. He was going to share examples of a blacksmith’s work from different periods of History, and he had set up his forge at a safe distance from the school. As we neared the front of the building, we realized that the smoke billowing around the building and the heavy smell in the air were just that–smoke. It had been drawn in to the vents in the building, setting off the alarm. It was only the blacksmith firing up, readying for the activities of the day. It was smoke. Only smoke.
But the feelings of helplessness, of little children relying on me, of responsibility for the students in my care, and ultimately the sheer joy that those I love were safe– was real, too real to remain dry-eyed when I reflect upon it all. Too real, when my son shared his view of it all–telling me that the principal had grabbed him and another kindergartener and rushed them out another door, telling them to go to “their line” and stand. He told me that he was standing on his line crying that Papaw and other kids might get burned up in the fire. He said that “…When Mrs. Brown told me to run, I pulled my hand free and ran as fast as you would write a dot on a piece of paper, Mom.” It made my heart still, for at least a nano-second–thinking of what might have been. But praise the Lord, what might have been had not come to pass.
In Awe of God’s Mercy
It’s amazing how instantly the sky becomes a deeper shade of blue, how my weary body is suddenly rejuvenated, and the little faces looking back at me from across their desks, as well as the face of my own child in the rear-view mirror as I drive home from school for the day, become the sweetest sights I’ve seen in a long, long, time. And somehow the little worries and concerns have disappeared in that smoky haze of the blacksmith’s forge.
He could have used the fire to burn away and purge the cares of this world, but praise the Lord, this time, the smoke was enough.