Heroes at Cook's Corner. October 22, 2007.
Crisis and Inconvenience: A Lesson in Pridefulness and Dependence
We invited Rich's parents to join us for dinner on Sunday, October 21, 2007. We passed a splendid afternoon together. Fifteen minutes after they left our home, Rich's dad phoned us to say that he had spotted smoke while driving through the canyon. His call was our first inkling of the major wildfire that became known as the Santiago Fire.
Our canyon home is peaceful and tranquil. It's also remote, and in the fall, especially, susceptible to fire. Autumn is fire season in Southern California as the Santa Ana winds blow hot and dry. Dad's news sent a trickle of fear through me. We searched for information about the fire and passed an uneasy night sleeping in shifts. The next morning, Rich stayed home to gather our belongings and keep an eye on the fire's progress. The fire had grown greatly overnight and was a few miles from our home. Before we "slept" on Monday night we had loaded our most important belongings into our vehicles.
Tuesday morning Rich remained home. I dropped his son, Ryan, off at his first day of work at Starbucks. I cautioned him, as I dropped him off, that if an evacuation order came, he was to catch a ride with someone and then call me to come and pick him up. Flames were burning on the hillside across the road from his work. I was afraid of what might befall Ryan if he tried to walk out.
Lots of Smoke. October 23, 2007.
By three P.M. our neighborhood was under mandatory evacuation orders. Rich dropped our labrador retriever, J.D., off at the home of our dear friends Don and Sandy. I found a hotel room for Rich and me. Ryan, who was 19 at the time, chose to spend the night with a buddy.
We could see flames on the hills outside our hotel room. They cast a bright glow as night fell. Our small group leader offered us shelter and urged us to come. We chose the privacy of our hotel room. We prayed for the firefighters and for those folks who had chosen to stand and fight rather than evacuate.
I remember thinking that nothing was really happening. So we had to stay in a hotel room for a few days. Big deal. If our home burned down, now that would be an event. And even then, I told myself, we're insured. For us, this fire was an inconvenience, not a crisis.
Wednesday I trooped off to work from our temporary hotel-room "home." Rich went to his job. Ryan was sofa-surfing, but checking in regularly.
Rich and I met at the hotel that evening and suddenly the strain of the past few days fell upon me. I was tired. I was frightened. I didn't want to think any more. Rich offered to pick up takeout so I wouldn't have to go out to a restaurant. I remember telling him, "Sure, whatever. I can't make any more decisions. I don't want to answer any more questions. Just treat me like I'm 18 months old." He said he would bring in roast beef sandwiches and asked me if I'd like some french fries. I burst into tears. "French fries are a question!" I wailed. He blanched (but only for an instant), held me for a moment, then left to pick up dinner.
Throughout these few days we'd been receiving frequent phone calls from worried family members and friends. Yes, we're fine, I would tell them. We have everything we need. Don't you worry about us. I lay in bed Wednesday night hoping for sleep. I spent the night mentally remodeling our home.
By Thursday morning I was exhausted. I sent my boss an email, telling her that I couldn't come in. She told me to take care of myself and keep her posted. (Throughout the week, my coworkers had been making virtually no requests of me while I was at work. Some of our belongings were stored in my office, with my boss's blessings. Wednesday morning a "care basket" full of soothing treats was on my desk when I arrived at work. Never understimate the value of wonderful coworkers!)
Rich delayed his trip to work; I think he could tell I was fragile. We drove through the community of Rancho Santa Margarita, heading for the closest point to our home we could reach without encountering a police roadblock. Then we parked the car in a residential neighborhood and walked half a mile to a high point overlooking our little neighborhood.
We could see smoke, but no live flames. A nearby news crew interviewed us--Rich's aunt and uncle in Wyoming later reported they'd seen us on the news. Rich took me back to our hotel, then went on to work. I went upstairs to our room and finally found a bit of rest.
After an hour or so I awoke feeling better. The local news reported that our church had opened a relief center. I decided that since this whole situation was an inconvenience, rather than a crisis, the least I could do was drop by the church to see if I could help. After spending some time helping at the church, I planned to buy some socks, as I hadn't packed enough clean socks when we were preparing to evacuate.
I drove to our church and made my way to the relief center. The staff there asked me if I was affected by the fire. I explained that we were evacuated, but that I was fine, really. Really. I had simply come to see how I could help. Those poor folks in Modjeska Canyon, whose homes had burned--they needed our support. I asked if we could pray together for those newly homeless people, and was surprised to find tears streaming down my face as a few of us gathered in prayer. The counselors at the relief center gently persisted: "Isn't there anything, anything at all that you need?"
I sniffled and chuckled. "When I leave here," I told them, "I am going to buy some socks. I didn't pack enough socks." Not thirty seconds later, a woman came through the door, pushing a cart loaded with.....socks! (And underwear, but boy oh boy did she have piles of socks!) She said that she thought evacuees might be running short on clean clothes and so she'd gone to a store and bought dozens of packages of socks and underwear.
That godly woman was Christ's hands and feet that day; He sent her to deliver my socks. The gift of the socks (a six-pair bag of Champion tube socks, in case you were wondering) taught me something important about pridefulness. If I convince myself that a given need is "too small" to warrant God's intervention, I fail to depend on Him. Chase that thought a bit further and its implicit pridefulness becomes apparent. If I only pray for help in times of crisis, I'm demonstrating that I don't recognize my need for Him in the smaller corners of my life.
God's lesson for me was that we are to depend on Him in crisis and in inconvenience--and especially when we've convinced ourselves that one is the other.
32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all,
won’t he also give us everything else?
Romans 8:32 (NLT)