How I prayed about a wildfire

I have always found great comfort and hope in the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (see Daniel, chapter 3). The Bible tells us these Hebrew captives were bound and thrown into a fiery furnace by the king of Babylon because they refused to worship his golden idol. But when the king looked into the furnace, he was amazed to find the three walking around in the midst of the fire unharmed—and that there was a fourth person among them who was “like the Son of God.” The astonished king let the Hebrews out of the furnace and blessed them, and he honored their God.

What was going on here? Was the Son of God just suddenly present in the furnace? I don’t think so. Each of these Hebrew men had lived a God-centered life before the furnace incident. They loved God and obeyed the First Commandment, putting God above all else. They prayed and feasted on God’s Word and did not waver in the face of false authority or a threat to their lives. 

The humble, steadfast faithfulness of these men enabled them to realize that the Christ—the spiritual understanding and representation of God—was present, walking with them. And this understanding saved them from the fiery furnace. 

In the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy gives some helpful definitions of Christ. One that I hold dear is “Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness” (p. 332).

We can all walk with Christ. Wherever we are, whatever our circumstances, Christ is with us, and we can listen to the divine message and reap the blessings of faithfulness to God’s Word. This is the truth I held to when a wildfire swept through my community.

A reassuring thought came to me: “Home is the structure of Love, and nothing can consume it.”

One eerie morning in November 2018, we were evacuated from our home. The fast-moving fire was bearing down on the canyon where we live and consuming the town above us. As I drove out of the canyon, I reached out to God in prayer. All that I had learned of God’s goodness through daily study of the two books that are the pastor of the Church of Christ, Scientist—the Bible and Science and Health—helped me to feel conscious of the healing and saving presence of the Christ right where we were. With authority, a reassuring thought came to me: “Home is the structure of Love, and nothing can consume it.” 

The word structure might bring to mind a physical building or framework, but it is so much more. Structure also means shape or form. One definition is “the arrangement of and relations between the parts of something complex.” 

The structure of a house is temporary and changeable, but the structure of Love—another name for God—is entirely spiritual. Divine Love is always keeping its own ideas in perfect alignment, and this truth, understood, can bring adjustment in all human circumstances where it is needed. Love’s structure is never static, but dynamic, and there is no power that can consume Love. 

As I reasoned that God alone is in control of all arranging and relating, my focus on our house as a material structure began to fade. Day by day, I saw Love’s comfort, care, and grand design embracing all. 

During the same month as the fire, there was an article in The Christian Science Journal titled “Gratitude—finding the contours of good” (Lois Herr). A friend who was also praying about our community paraphrased the title, ending it with “the contours of home.” I loved thinking about how gratitude helps us find the contours of our true, spiritual home. 

Destructive forces such as fire are not from God and cannot touch man’s true selfhood.

Science and Health says, “Pilgrim on earth, thy home is heaven;…” (p. 254), and elsewhere lists the qualities that express the kingdom of heaven: “unselfishness, goodness, mercy, justice, health, holiness, love” (p. 248). I began to pay attention to the many individual expressions of these qualities during and after the fire. People opened their homes to friends, family, and strangers. Individuals and organizations near and far sent gift cards for people to purchase whatever they needed. Landlords and service providers waived payment. Churches came together to offer hope and spiritual support to anyone who desired it. People listened to one another, offering comfort and encouragement. 

Gratitude for this evidence of the structure of Love helped lift my thought above disturbing pictures and reports being broadcast about the fire. I refused to entertain any thought that God is not supreme or that the structure of Love could be destroyed. 

I was put to the test when I saw a news report that showed a beloved covered bridge engulfed in flames. Our home is a tenth of a mile from that bridge. My husband turned to me and said, “Our home is gone.” 

No! I thought. Our home is the structure of Love, and it is here, now. Nothing can consume it! I was not going to be pulled down into believing the testimony of the physical senses. I was walking with Christ and knew that whether or not our house was burned had no bearing on our real, spiritual home, which is forever maintained and protected by God. I was comforted by Psalms 37:18: “The Lord knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever.” 

One day we received the news that although we had lost our garage, our guesthouse, and some outbuildings, our house was still standing. I was of course deeply grateful to hear this, but I continued to pray daily over the next few months to see that everyone resides in God’s kingdom, forever cared for and safe within the structure of Love. Fire, which is useful in many ways, cannot become a destructive force. Destructive forces are not from God and therefore cannot touch man’s true selfhood. 

A year later, my neighbor, whose house had burned down, invited several friends and neighbors to a party held on her newly cleaned and cleared property, which was ready for rebuilding. She thanked us for coming and then remarked that she realized her house and its contents were not what was truly important to her. “What’s important is this,” she said, waving her hand to embrace all of us. 

I felt the presence of the Christ in what my neighbor said. The structure of Love was palpable that afternoon, expressed in generosity, caring, kindness, support, and community. 

I love the end of the Bible story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. When they came out of the furnace, not even the smell of smoke had touched them! Mentally staying present with the Christ leaves us with a deeper impression of good than of evil, shielding us from any sense of loss or victimhood. 

To walk with Christ is to witness the harmonious arrangement and relation of all Love’s ideas. This is the dynamic structure of Love in which we live.

Not afraid but not naive
April 20, 2020

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