Early this morning, like 3:30am, we were woken by sirens. Before I could figure out that it wasn’t a dream, Jacob was flying down the stairs to get the scoop. I was collecting details. Detroit where a lot happens, flashing lights and sirens, right outside our window, 1st floor Loft, kids beds next to the windows, smell of melting plastic. Fire! Inside? No. Jacob started shouting for everyone to wake up and get away from the window, because our church van (seconding as our family vehicle) was being devoured in huge flames.
When I got to the window, to collect my 3 babies, the flames were bigger than the van itself. Every window and door handle had billows of fire coming out of them. I couldn’t move for a moment, and then I imagined there could be a large explosion. Still collecting information I realized the only thing between us was a few feet of sidewalk and a wall of windows. I haven’t measured, but we were less than 3 yards away.
We went to the back of the loft and I snuggled my girls. I started to process what was happening, and trying to discover how I should be feeling. I was feeling peace. Was that right? I recalled two moments in my recent years of life. First was when we snuggled as a family in our 3rd floor apartment while hurricane Sandy flooded first floors with raging ocean waters and scooped up cars. Sirens, car alarms, and fire. We were so close to great danger, but I felt protection. Something assured me that night that I would be safe. I remember the way I pushed away the fear. But right now I couldn’t find the fear to push it away. Was I numb? No.
Second, I was reminded of one specific night, several months ago, where I woke up feeling nothing described as anything else but the presence of fear. It was as though something dark and scary entered the room, and startled us awake. Brooklyn, who was 2 at the time and had just crawled into my bed, started yelling and crying, as though something was going to get her. I felt what she felt, so I called out “Jesus”, knowing the power of that name, because of the way that He defeated everything dark and dead when he died on the cross. The darkness left instantly. We were left a little shook up those nights, but it began a restoration.
In this moment, I couldn’t find this feeling, that presence of fear. It was as though I was in a bubble, that was fire proof, fear proof. Protection! An army of angels that I asked God to keep on night watch over my family. They were hard at work, protecting us. It went so much bigger than physical protection. I was smiling and hugging my girls. In years past, I would have been crying, 911 calling on Jesus.
When I listened to the words I was saying to my girls, I realized that I have been recently praying for moments like these. And I was recently prompted to pray more specific protection, by a horrific dream. I’ve been asking Jesus, every night when I put the girls to bed, every morning when I drive them to school, to protect us and “keep fear far from us”. I think I say this phrase 2-3 times a day. Not because I fear bad things, but because I realized fear is the most harmful thing I can feel. It lies to us, telling us that God doesn’t care about us, or have a purpose for every breath He gives us. It leaves us drowning in uncertainty. All these things are lies, and drag us away from the presence of God, and the love He has for us.
I can’t help but toss the promises around my head, that I journaled back in January. These things, God has been doing in me before we even knew we would move to Detroit, and be Pastors over Courage Church:
Isaiah 51:13 “You have forgotten the Lord your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, that you fear continually all day…”
Stop this fear! Remember who God is!
Isaiah 54:14,17 “In righteousness you will be established; you will be far from oppression, for you will not fear: and from terror, for it will not come near you.” v17 “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper … this is the heritage of the servants of the Lord… Declares the Lord!”
“Isaiah 32:17-18 “The work of righteousness will be peace, and the service of righteousness quietness and confidence forever. Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation, and in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places”
This, that. These promises, those truths. It’s what God has promised and now pushed fear out of my life, and given me confidence, forever. That we will be safe and fear can not touch us. God will protect us. After all, He did design my life. When I trust Him with that promise, I live in peace. I can’t describe how protected I feel, and how I watch the raging fire, but feel a deep peace and great confidence, in how big my God is, how much my God loves and watches over my family – all in the same moment. So great that we are not only protected, but couldn’t find fear if we looked for it, as it stares us in the face through our loft wall of windows.
The hard part is not living here, but getting here. To this place far from fear. It’s all about longing for God, and taking refuge in Him. Knowing His deep love for us.
Jeremiah 39:18 “For I will certainly rescue you, and you will not fall by the sword; but you will have your own life … because you have trusted in Me,” declares the Lord.’”
In some of my darkest moments, of uncertainty and fear, I wrote about taking refuge: “How I long to stay in the refuge of God. My whole life wading through His presence. God shows His love to us through His Holy Spirit. And that brings us Hope! And hope does not disappoint! (Romans 5:5) If we can rest in Him, we will never be deeply disappointed. It’s all about LOVE; our lives, our purpose. In the end, it’s a love thing.”
Find yourself there. When there’s fear, turn to God. When you do, you will continue on and look back wondering when the fear departed far from you, and how you ever felt so sure of God’s love.
So what happened? Who did this? We don’t exactly know. Jacob ran outside to discover something. Two witnesses reported to the firefighters that they saw two cars stop at the van. Both drove away, but immediately one came back and set the van on fire. That’s all we have. By morning the van was towed, and arson investigation had already started working. Whoever it was, it’s seemingly random. It was Friday the 13th, and this is a neighborhood of Detroit that seems to have random types of crimes happen.
Where does that leave us? We don’t know, except that God is orchestrating every detail of our lives, and we have full confidence in His design. We will walk in this truth, and carry on without delay. God prepared us for this, in so many moments of our lives. We are undisturbed, thankful for protection, and full of hope.