This past winter, I got the phone call that no one ever wants to get. In a high pitched, panicked voice my wife asked, "Verick, did you leave hot ashes on the porch?" I knew immediately that there was a fire on my porch. Crystal, and my son, Harrison sprang into action and used a fire extinguisher and hose pipe to put out the fire. It got within six inches of our kitchen door and even closer to our hearth room wall. To say that it was a close call would be a vast understatement. It must have been horrific for Crystal to be walking through to turn out the lights before leaving to take the kids to gymnastics, only to see flames of fire leaping up on the other side of the door. Thank the Lord she hadn't left without seeing the fire, or there may not been a home to come back to. I am so thankful she and Harrison were able to get the fire put out and I still beat myself up about having left them in harms way over my careless action of forgetting to take the ashes out to the fire pit. It had been over 20 hours, but they were obviously still very hot. I had planned to tell the kids goodbye and walk out that way to my truck. I got side tracked settling a sibling dispute and walked out another door, forgetting about the paper sack of ash. In just a few hours time, it had sat and smoldered and created a fire.
That following Saturday I had the distinguished privilige of replacing the burnt boards. Out to the barn I went, carting the dilapidated wood and throwing it in a stack for a future bonfire. That is where it sat taunting me for a few months.
I began looking at a bean trellis design online and settled on an arch design. I grabbed some left over fencing from the dog's kennel and then went out to the barn to get some tools, and there sat the burnt wood from the fire.
An aha moment went off and I decided the wood would be just what I needed to make this trellis! Within an hour it was complete. My son Hudson and I enjoyed building it together. I now have a wonderful arch that will hopefully be climbed over by my healthy beans and be choc full at time to harvest.
It was when I finished the trellis that I felt that I had learned something about God and His love for us. Stay with me here, this is where it gets good and where we can get a glimpse of how God works.
You see, the fire was a careless choice that I made that did two things, it burned some of the wood on my porch, and it made my wife ask if I was listening to her. I don't know about you guys, but trust is a huge thing in marriage and if a wife has to question it, that's not a good thing. You see, here's the back story.
One week prior to me setting the porch on fire, she had told me about some friends of hers who posted a story of someone who had placed old ashes that they thought were burned out inside their garbage can. She had asked me to please never do that and not to leave any on the porch again. She even had a dream warning her about a fire. I agreed and made a mental note not to do it again.
Needless to say I didn't take full heed of the warning.
I apologized and all was forgiven, but I was still left with a burnt porch and wood I could no longer use. How many of us have been left with damage to our lives and part of us that we feel God could never use? You see, the porch was repaired, but the new wood looks different, kind of like a scar. I cannot cover up the fact that there was damage to my porch and until all the wood is replaced, I will continually have to answer the questions people ask as to what happened. Furthermore, I've got the baggage hiding out in my barn taking up space. How much baggage do we keep in our life that is useless and just taking up space? The damage that caused the scar may be long gone, but the reminder is always there. Maybe it was something you did in high school, or late one night after having too much to drink. Maybe the scar is from life lost in a car wreck, a war, or even a clinic on the other side of town. No matter where it came from, it cannot be changed. What can be changed is what happens to the baggage. What I find amazing is that God knew that we as humans would damage ourselves beyond emotional and physical repair. He had to have a plan to fix all of that.
The thing about fires is that they leave ashes. Ashes stain. They permanently mark whatever they touch. But they do have some good qualities. In the garden, ashes can be used to balance out the PH and help your plants to grow better. In pottery, ashes are used to make the glaze that gives it a beautiful lusture and shine. Maybe that's why God offers us beauty for ashes, because he can take something awful and nasty and make it useful and lovely.
So, that baggage hanging out in the barn? The trellis that I built out of my charred wood was sitting there available since the fire. I just never saw it as something that could be useful. The optimum phrase there being "I just never saw". When it comes to my baggage and yours, chances are we will never see the usefulness of the pain we have gone through and still carry with us on a daily basis. The truth is however, that God does. He had a blueprint to make something beautiful from your hard times and suffering before time began.
Why doesn't He just prevent bad things from happening in the first place? That is a very valid question, and one I hear often in my line of work. Well, He could. He could prevent every bad thing that happens to us in our lives and in this world. He could have started from the beginning when you and I were about to make our first step. He could have kept us from falling, but then we wouldn't have learned how to walk. He could have made things for us so safe and rigid to where we wouldn't be able to make any bad decisions, but he wanted people, not robots. He gave us the will to choose Him, instead of programming us all to choose Him. If you have a child do you make every decision for them their whole life?
God knows we are going to make mistakes and hurt ourself. He also knows that some of these mistakes are so damaging that only He can fix them. This is where His blueprint comes in. Once I knew there was a plan to build something for my beans, I went and got the wood from the barn. I wanted to reclaim it. To reclaim is using something over again that is either old or broken and giving it new life. God wants to reclaim us! He has our blueprint and is willing to do the work in our hearts to heal the pain, make us whole and useful in His kingdom!
"I will make up to you for the years of the locust, the great locust devastation-locusts savage, locusts deadly, fierce locusts, locusts of doom. That great locust invasion I sent your way. You'll eat your fill of good food. You'll be full of praises to your God, the God who has set you back on your heels in wonder." Joel 2
The thing is we have to be willing to let him get in our dusty old barn and reclaim that old burned up wood of our life. We have to let go of ownership of our baggage, because as long as we own it He can't reclaim it.
When God is doing a new work, when He is restoring and reclaiming, I find that it is best and looks much better if we give up our rights to it. After all, the person who makes the blueprint knows exactly what they are building and if we get in there and try to direct how it is made, then we often come out with something looking very different from what the original plan was.
Maybe it's time to let go and let God reclaim the baggage in your barn and see what He makes from it. I can promise you, no matter how long it takes, He will give you life and beauty for them. You may just be made into a trellis that supports growth and gives shelter to others while they grow as well.