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One Monday night in August of 1998, I was spray painting next to our gas hot-water heater. I had never had gas appliances before and was ignorant of the implications of what I was doing. After a short time the flame ignited the fumes, and my face, arms, and feet were badly burned.
I immediately cried out for help and went into the next room, retrieved the fire extinguisher, and walked back to the fire. As I was carrying the extinguisher, I was turning it over in my hands, realizing that I had never used one before and feeling I didn't know how. I told God that this was up to Him, and He needed to show me. Without words, and having utter confidence in God, I knew what to do and put out the fire. Without thinking, I then went to the tub and began running cool water. We had company at the time—my mom, my brother-in-law, his wife, and their son. They came to my aid and found me sitting on the side of the tub, repeating "I am so thankful. I am so thankful." And was I ever! I had caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and I looked a fright. My hair was singed; there was soot all over me. But I could walk; I could think; I could see. I felt I had everything in God's universe to be grateful for. I felt so loved and protected.
After a time, maybe an hour, I grew tired of being wet and cold. My mom and sister-in-law had, at my insistence, kept me covered with cool wet rags. I felt unable to cope with the pain, and this had brought temporary relief. I put on some dry clothes and found myself alone in the living room with Mom. She was praying, and I shared a favorite song with her that was always very inspiring to me. The day's mail was sitting on a chair, and I was moved to open what was obviously a wedding invitation from a dear friend. The joy of this, the joy of unselfish love, was enough to draw me out of focusing on myself—"my" body, "my" pain. This marked the end of the hard, persistent pain, although there were subsequent short periods of discomfort that were later healed.
Monday I was back at work. My face looked normal—full of the beauty that is God's.
By the end of Wednesday, I was free from sporadic bouts of sobbing, which I hadn't been able to control when the memory of the fire would overwhelm me. This came about through trusting more deeply in God's ever-present plan, guidance, and care. I went to church, although I couldn't wear shoes. The usher's loving greeting, so full of God's grace—and the sweetest laughter!—helped to break the mesmerism of physical appearance. I stood that night and gave my thanks for God's love and unending protection.
After my healing of being subject to fearful memory, I was freed to concentrate on overcoming my greatest fear—that my face would be scarred. I had somehow felt personal ownership rights to beauty, when, in fact, God is all cause, and so all beauty is because of Him. If I was beautiful, it had nothing to do with matter and everything to do with the truth that I am His.
Friday, Mom and I traveled by plane to my Christian Science Students Association as we had previously planned. This was a trying time for me, as I was concerned about what people who saw me might think. I prayed to see the beauty of everyone, and found myself thinking more unselfishly than ever and feeling a new, more God-inspired love for the strangers around me. Later that day I was confident enough for Mom to leave me alone briefly in public.
Being surrounded by friends and loved ones Saturday at the association meeting was unspeakably joyful. Sunday I returned home alone, unselfconsciously. Monday I was back at work. My face looked normal—full of the beauty that is God's. Some redness remained on my arms and feet, but it was gone within the week, as I recall. A small, almost unnoticeable spot of red on my face remained for several more weeks. I told my mom about it. She knew that I still harbored a fear of being asked to light an ancient gas furnace at my work. As I turned again to a more conscious reliance on God as my source of trust and protection, the red spot and the fear left together. I have no lingering fear of fire.
When I think now of this experience, I remember the tremendous feeling of thankfulness, the love and kindness of friends, and the wonderful lessons about beauty that I learned. I am so thankful.
Nancy Earl Collins
To Our Readers
William E. Moody
with contributions from David E. Golay, Louise Worsham, Ronald G. Walker
items of interest
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