As our prayers embrace the thousands affected by the raging wildfires here in California, an experience from my childhood comes to thought, bringing helpful insights.
On Christmas Day when I was twelve years old, our family was sitting in front of the Christmas tree opening packages, when we saw smoke outside the picture window. Since we lived near a small railroad station, we thought at first that it was smoke from a train, but we soon realized it was much more than that—and it was coming from our home.
Men from the volunteer fire department in our small town—some still in their pajamas—came to our aid. We had a pond on the property, but since the fire hoses had not been well maintained, it was very difficult to get enough water to put out the flames. Our family was praying for these dedicated men, knowing that God was guiding and protecting them as they worked so diligently to save our house. Ultimately the fire was extinguished and we were all safe, but our house would need to be rebuilt.
Although it was very sad to lose many personal treasures such as family photos and records, what we came away with was much more valuable. We learned from the fire department that the fire was a result of faulty wiring and had been smoldering for some time in the attic. The fire inspector said it was quite amazing that the fire hadn’t ignited sooner. He pointed out how fortunate it was that the flames hadn’t engulfed us during the night when we were asleep.
My parents were accustomed to praying each day to understand God’s loving care, not only for our family but also for our community and the world. Surely a result of this prayer was evidenced in God’s love for us that night, which we felt during this experience.
I will always be grateful for my parents’ attitude throughout our experience following that Christmas. Although it was a difficult time, they never emphasized the loss but held foremost in thought their deep gratitude for God’s love and our safety. Their actions were grounded in the understanding that our true home is always in God, therefore permanent and indestructible, for as the book of Psalms in the Bible states: “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations” (90:1).
Another Psalm assures the reader that everyone’s home is everlasting. It says we “dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (23:6). In her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, includes an interpretation of this verse: “I will dwell in the house [the consciousness] of [love] for ever” (p. 578). Our family had learned that our true home was in the ever-presence of God, who is Love itself. This divine Love is expressed in the love we have for one another.
There has been no one more conscious of this Love than Jesus, and we can learn so much from his example. Christ Jesus showed us how to rise above fear and find refuge from danger through understanding a divine law that is always operating on our behalf. For example, when Jesus and his disciples were out at sea in the middle of a great storm, he faced it fearlessly, rebuking it with “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39), and the storm ceased.
That same unfailing law of Love that Jesus so deeply understood, and in which he was so confident, is today embracing all those affected by the wildfires, including the courageous residents and heroic firefighters. And as our thought is filled with the consciousness of God’s love and we feel confidence in His all-power, we come to trust that His guidance is ever present, available to be felt by all.
After our family experienced the fire, there remained a moving symbol of our experience on the charred remains of a fireplace mantle. It was a white china figurine of a girl in prayer. She was covered in ashes but unharmed.
That statuette had been a gift to me from a loved Sunday School teacher and continues to be a reminder to me of God’s love and care. May that same love embrace each individual involved in these current fires, bringing inner peace and confidence in God’s ever-present help.
A version of this article was published in The Christian Science Monitor’s Christian Science Perspective column, November 4, 2019.