Out of the Ashes
The fire blazed unchecked.
Orange spurts of fury shot skyward, erupting in a volcanic shower of burning embers. Its dazzling trail filled the sky like the tail of a comet.
The charred remains of what was once Sarah’s home glared from beneath the flames, naked as a skeleton. Sarah stood as near as she could bear, the burning heat pressing against her cheeks. She had given up fighting.
No one was with her. No one bore witness to the disappearance of the last connection that she had with her past. Her family home was evaporating within a raging furnace and she alone said goodbye to the house where she had taken her first steps; where she had sat with her mother on her sprawling double bed, soaking up the sun and sharing their hearts; where her two brothers had played stick fighting in the back garden with such ferocity that one could easily have believed that they were not playing a game at all; where her father had tucked her warmly into bed each night, whispering a prayer and a blessing.
It was all gone now. They were all gone. Four years ago, Sarah had been nineteen years old, three months and twelve days when she had decided to go on holiday with a friend. She was on the beach when she got the phone call that left her an orphan and an only child. A car jumped the lights; it was all so sudden; the driver was drunk; we got there too late. All the explanations were meaningless. We got there too late. Too late.
God was above all that, in all them. Where had He been?
Where had He been while she pieced her life together after the accident? Where was He when she arrived back to an empty house and faced the shadows that haunted each room? Or when she had to rent out her home and move into a one-bedroom flat? Or on the day that she finally moved back home?
No, she was alone. She would always be alone.
The distant wail of a fire engine announced that the fire fighters were coming.
Always too late. Sarah had to fight her fires alone.
Three days passed and once again the explanations were meaningless. An explosion in the gas oven; the fire spread too quickly; it was a miracle you got out alive; we were just too late.
Sarah stood in the cold ashes. Nothing remained of her beloved home. Not a photograph, not a memory. She fell to her knees, the soot lifting slightly and circling her body in a filthy cloud.
“God, where were you,” she screamed.
Her voice sounded hollow in the still air with no one to hear her.
She dipped her hands into the ashes, wanting to immerse herself in all that she had left. They disintegrated like the fragile petals of a dying rose. Her fingers brushed against something, something solid. Hurriedly, she swept aside the ash and soot until she found it, a small silver cross. It had been her mothers.
And then deep in her spirit she heard the still, small voice that she had closed her heart to four years previously as she stood on the beach, the terrible news ringing in her ears and deafening her soul, “When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” 1
1. NIV Isaiah 43:2b-3a
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