“Amazing how fire exposes our priorities.” –Sherlock in BBC’s Sherlock.
Wait. This bog is about books and faith. What in the world am I doing quoting a television show, especially one that, at times, dances across the line into trivializing faith? The quote is good. Think about it. REALLY, think about it. How many of us have staunchly stood up and promised we’d remain loyal to our faith even in the face of danger or death? But would we?
We’ve heard stories of believers asked to renounce their faith or die. In the ones we hear, the believer holds firmly to faith. It’s inspiring. I hope that if push ever came to shove, I would be as bold. That I could be like the three boys who were thrown into the fire because they refused to kneel to a golden image or Daniel who kept praying even though he faced the lion’s den.
But then I stumble in the smaller things, and it leaves me wondering, not about my faith exactly but about what I’m holding onto. I’ve recently started listening to “Home” by Chris Tomlin. It’s an upbeat song about how the troubles in life open you up to the realization that we are not made for the world as it is. We were made for God’s perfect creation that will one day be restored. We were made for heaven, a place where we can be fully in God’s presence. It speaks of wanting to go home. I sing along and look forward to that time. Well, I did until a fire showed me where I fail.
The other day, I found a lump that as a woman over forty, I knew I had to have checked out. My head told me it was nothing. It was sudden and painful, two factors that are actually considered good. Most of the time, I handled the wait for my mammogram well. But at times the worst case scenario entered my mind. Family history and the memory of my aunt’s battle with cancer would sneak their way into my thoughts. I believe my God can heal anything, but it doesn’t mean He chooses to do so every time. Cancer takes the lives of believers every day, ones with undeniable faith in God.
How did I handle the uncertain times? I decided to simply spend time in worship. No matter what, God is ultimately in control. Even the difficult times can bring us closer to Him and shape us into someone who lives and loves more like Jesus. I turned on the music and started to sing along. Home started playing. At first I was fine. Then we reached the chorus, “Oh I want to go home.” I couldn’t sing it. The only thought that ran through my head was, “But I don’t want to go now.” The relatively small fire of uncertainty over my health showed me how much I still hold on to the temporary. In my heart I know God holds my kids in His hands. I know that He loves them more than I do. But I want to see with my own eyes how they grow. I’ve given them to God, but do I struggle to keep from taking them back?
As uncomfortable and downright painful as life can be, it’s known. There’s something to be said for accepting what is known over the unknown no matter how good it’s supposed to be. We haven’t experienced it yet. Though our hearts and faith tells us it’s going to be beyond our wildest imaginations, it’s still the unknown. We struggle, I struggle, and it took one short-lived fire to show me the truth.
It’s much the same way with Cara Westling in Plummet by Brandilyn Collins. Cara has escaped an abusive situation with her daughter and started a new life in Idaho. When she immediately lands a job, she’s grateful. Though she struggles with self-esteem after what she’s been through, her faith is intact. She knows God is right there with them, helping them move to a better place in life. He’s going to see them through.
Then the fire starts. One week into her job, her boss murders a woman practically in front of her. She balks at his insistence that she help get rid of the body. When he asks her what her daughter will do without her after she’s convicted of murder, she sees it as the threat that it is. She is the new nobody in town. He’s a powerful, respected man in the community. Cara feels she has no choice. She helps him. The flame becomes a blaze as one choice leads to another down a path she can’t seem to escape.
I got the impression that if it had been Cara and no one else, she would have claimed God would help her through whatever came. She would have said no to her boss. It was when her daughter was thrown into the mix that Cara struggled. Suddenly the faith she claimed didn’t seem strong enough to stand under what would come. It was trial by fire, and Cara found her guilt growing with each new demand from her boss.
Of course, looking at trials by fire from another direction, both for Cara and ourselves, we see God uses them to grow our faith. When we finally make the godly choices we should have made in the beginning, our faith gets stronger. It’s easier to keep making the right choices in the future. That gives me hope. Maybe one day, mine will be strong enough that nothing will keep me from being able to sing, “Oh I want to go home.”
By the Book: What priorities would a fire in your life expose?