If you had only a few minutes to gather up a few select treasures of your life before fleeing a raging inferno, what would you take - and what would you leave behind?
Families in Colorado Springs were faced with this very question this past Tuesday. In just a matter of minutes, a wildfire that had been contained in canyons bordering the city swept down through the hillsides. The sky, which had been sunny, turned red. Ash and cinders rained down for miles in every direction.
One of my colleagues, Paul Batura, who was on vacation and painting inside his house in the affected area, said the scene appeared apocalyptic.
"After securing our three little boys," he wrote, "we ran from room to room. Some dear friends from a mile away appeared like angels on our doorsteps, and assisted with the mad dash. A few boxes of pictures, a wedding album, keepsakes from the boys' births, and a file drawer of family records was all time allowed us to gather. In a flash we were gone as our street became enveloped in smoke. Eleven years of marriage and our respective and collective lives reduced to what two cars could carry."
Over 32,000 people were evacuated from their neighborhoods in Colorado Springs Tuesday afternoon. Where Jean and I live, is still out of the line of fire, but our neighbors to the west are not so fortunate. More people are expected to be evacuated and impacted by nightfall. Focus on the Family, if you're wondering, is also not under any evacuation order.
What does it do to a person to flee their home from a raging fire with only minutes to spare? To listen to those who have done so is to be reminded that it does quite a lot, especially force one to prioritize.
"You're reminded again what's most important," one of the evacuees reflected. "Life can change in an instant. We might think we know what lies beyond sight, but we don't."
Tragedy of this kind is shocking and devastating, of course, but it's not a new development. Scripture reminds us that the rain falls on the just and unjust, and there is often no explanation what the Lord allows some people to suffer more (or so it seems) than others.
The city of Colorado Springs is in mourning as hundreds of families are faced with the reality of coming "home" to a pile of smoldering embers.
Paul, who is still unsure of his family's housing fate, was lying awake last night, his emotions ravaged and raw, wondering what was happening just a few miles away. As he watched the news video, he said, of the houses being consumed by fire, he was reminded of what his late mom used to say:
"Anyone can build a house of wood or stone, but it takes love to build a home."
As a body of believers, we may feel bruised at times, but with Jesus by our side, "we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed" (2 Cor 4:8-9)
Please join me in praying for all the victims of this fire and the many others who are facing similar challenges all around the country.