Last month my parents were visiting us when the police called them, from their home phone. There had been a fire at their house; their youngest son, still living at home, his friend, and my mother’s father had all been hospitalized. My brother had been badly burned on his hand and foot rescuing my grandfather and trying to put out the fire. When the police called, he was on his way by ambulance to a burn unit in a larger city; surgeons would operate on him as soon as possible.
That sort of news, and its implications, is difficult to process out of the blue. It’s over the past few weeks that we’ve been able to see the situation more clearly. As we look back, some things stand out clearly—the good, the bad, and the beautiful.
- The house didn’t burn down. That’s a good thing.
- Grandpa is alive. That’s a really good thing.
- My brother’s friend has no lasting effects from smoke inhalation.
- From some parts of the first-floor kitchen, you can see my parents’ basement.
- Being far away from family in a crisis is hard.
- Third degree burns are horribly painful.
- The situation was not caused by sin. The fire was an accident; we fell into the hands of the Lord (I Chron. 21:13).
- It’s something I would never have asked for, but having my children watch my parents’ godly gut reaction to grief and uncertainty was very valuable.
- When the police called, friends from England were also here; he is a gifted pastor and my father’s friend. God had arranged immediate pastoral care before we knew we would need it.
- As my brother was being loaded into the ambulance, he was telling himself and everyone who was helping him that this was going to work out for his good—my father had been preaching through Romans 8 and this teenager had internalized it.
- The love of the saints is especially wonderful in times of distress. The congregation surrounded my family with their support. From a man who stayed with my brother from ambulance to operating room, to all the meals that the women provided, they have upheld my parents.
- We have been reminded of the power of prayer. Doctors can’t account for prayer in their prognosis. People from Australia, South Africa, the U. K., U. S., and Canada have been interceding for my brother before the Throne. God has heard and graciously answered His people. The doctors are amazed by my brother’s progress; he can walk and should regain full use of his hand.
- My mother got to bring her baby home from the hospital a second time, now ten times bigger, more talkative, and self-sufficient. It was amazing to see her check him out of the burn unit, load him into the car, and drive him home. Our way back went past an airport where vintage planes were practicing stunts. God kindly gave my brother an airshow after weeks of looking at a hospital.
- While they wait to move back into their home, my parents are living with my paternal grandparents, who just bought a home large enough to house two families plus my brother’s hospital bed. Having two parents and three grandparents dote on you is good for anyone.
- Bearing pain, having to wait, and needing help are humbling and character building. We’ve all had a dose of that, especially my brother, who has grown a lot through this whole experience.
There will be hard providences in this world. Some are much harder than the one my family has just experienced; they involve sin, they are ongoing, and sometimes they end in death. But if we are in Christ, they will always be for our good. God usually uses the ordinary means of grace to beautiful His children, and sometimes He adds the extraordinary means.
(The image in this post is a photograph of an untitled painting by my father’s mother that hangs in their dining room: the colour and light of the sky take up most of the canvas, dwarfing the black mountains at the bottom.)