In July of 2015, I sat on the steps of our family friends’ home in the country and enjoyed a hearty 4th of July celebration. We had grilled hotdogs, grilled chicken, potato salad, watermelon, all the classic goodies! It was a comfortable temperature outside, lots of groups of people chatting pleasantly, playing with sparklers, just enjoying being free Americans having a good time.
Of course, once the sun started to go down, the fireworks began. Fireworks can be so much more fun up close. Can be is the key phrase here.
This particular batch of fireworks had a bit of “attitude”. For a while, all of the fireworks went off without a hitch, they shot in a proper upward direction and exploded in the sky where they would burn off and do no harm to innocent bystanders. I think we were being lulled into a false sense of security.
Then we got to the “fiesty” batch. First a firework sped off across the ground and started showering a lady’s parked car with little explosions. Lucky, the car was unharmed and we got a good laugh out of it.
Next, a firework sent little explosions over to an entire line of parked cars and started a small grass fire underneath our 15 passenger van. Again, the vehicle was unharmed, and people continued to laugh, even if they were getting a bit jumpy.
The steps I had enthroned myself upon on were further away from the drama surrounding the driveway and road. I was surveying the scene with distant amusement, withdrawn from the chaos and quietly chatting with the people sitting with me.
My poor little sister had had enough of the firework tantrums below, so she came up to the porch where I was to finish out the festivities from a “safer” vantage point. I remained seated on the steps with a friend and a bunch of small children who found the step seating to their liking. The sky was growing a bit darker, and there were a few fireworks left.
And then it happened.
The meanest rocket yet was lit, and it shot over to the left of the driveway, into the air several yards above the porch steps. You know that split second of delay that happens when a rocket is shot off, it reaches its destination, and then there is a breath before the explosions begin?
That moment was a mix of slow motion and fast-forward all at the same time. I saw it light, go flying, and stop right in front of me…wait a second…that’s gonna explod…
I am not a screamer by nature. Sometimes I literally have to force my body to scream just to let go of some pressure, and it’s an actual labor for me. I DO NOT react naturally.
There was no forcing of this screaming. It was flowing out me like Niagra Falls. One moment I was chilling on the porch steps, the next moment I was surrounded on all sides by a fountain of blazing green fire that was popping and exploding! It was like being in the middle of a massive lightsaber battle where I didn’t have so much as a toothpick, much less the Force.
The friend I was seated next to was clinging to me and screaming like a banshee. The tiny children who had shared the steps with us were also shrieking and crying.
I’m sure it only lasted a few seconds, but when you are literally taking a firework shower, it feels like an eternity.
I ran a lightning fast evaluation of the situation in my head as I sat there, screaming and surrounded by alien green fire. It was one of the most bizarre, practically out-of-body experiences I have ever had. It was like my mind was separated from the rest of me and I was casually observing this chaotic scene while my physical body was screaming bloody murder.
So, I did a mental evaluation. Fight or flight told me to run. My mothering instincts told me to grab all the babies around me and shield them. But I quickly came to the one and only conclusion…
…there was literally nothing I could do but wait the firestorm out.
I couldn’t run. I couldn’t jump. I couldn’t even help anyone else around me. I just had to sit there and outlast it.
There have so many instances since that day when I have felt the exact same way I did July 4th, 2015. In fact, I feel like I have been living inside of an exploding firework for the past 3 years. Everything blowing up around me and there is literally nowhere to go, and practically nothing I can do. Just stuck in the misery.
If you ever wonder why people turn to alcohol, sex, drugs, and any other number of vices or addictions to deal with their pain, I’ll tell you why. Because when you are hurting so badly you just want to make it stop. You want to escape from the chaos, you want a place where you feel something other than sorrow, fear, or anger. There are days where you get desperate enough you feel like you would do anything to make the pain stop, that’s why some people commit suicide. They get low enough and don’t see any other options, then the devil whispers lies in their ear that they believe are their own voice. And tragedy happens, a hurting person ends their precious life full of potential, and they never get to see beyond that moment.
Escape. We are wired to want to escape. We are wired to want to fight. We are told that if we don’t DO something, nothing will ever come out right in the end.
There is a time to fight with everything you have in you. There is a time to run and escape a fire. There is a time to get up and do something…
But here is a truth I have learned about life in the past 3 years.
Quite often, the very best thing you can do is simply sit still and wait.
We human beings think we can control so much of our lives. We keep up this illusion of control until something like a natural disaster, a death, or a change in circumstances quickly reminds us that so much of this life is outside of our hands.
That thought strikes fear into the heart of so many people. It has done the same to me before, but it does not have the effect on me that it once did. What changed for me?
I have an intimate relationship with the One Who truly has the power to change, and I KNOW that He is good. I “knew” it before, but I KNOW it now!
At that moment where I sat surrounded by green fire, I had to let go of every human thought about what I had the power to do. The truth was if I had tried to move, run, grab someone, anything, I would have been horribly burned.
Have you tried to fight against an impossible circumstance and been utterly burned out? Or gotten burned? Have you tried convincing a bullheaded person of something true and only managed to give yourself an ulcer and a headache? Have you fought for something that you may eventually have gotten, but you destroyed your health/relationships/life in the process?
We strive so hard to change things that we cannot change. We spend so much energy worrying over things we cannot control. We scream and we rage, we ache and we panic, and rarely do we sit still.
I am a fighter, so I understand all of the above. I understand it perfectly. However, I have a novel new idea to present to you all.
Sitting still and waiting is one of the most effective ways to fight an impossible battle.
I love a God of grace. A warrior God. A God of peace. My Heavenly Father wages battle on my behalf 24/7. He sees all, He knows all, He loves more broadly and deeply than I can even fathom. He has a plan for everything. He has unlimited resources. And this God, my God, tells me, “Baby girl, just rest. Daddy’s got this.”
When I sit still, I accept a universal truth that there are things beyond my control. I let it go.
There is an incredible freedom to be discovered when you drop the weight of a burden you were not made to carry. And it’s only after you drop that weight that you can enter into rest.
Rest. So many people associate rest with laziness. WRONG! Have you ever seen an alligator resting in the sun at the zoo? It’s unmoving like a statue carved out of granite. You might even squint your eyes to make sure it’s not dead. It’s so still you can’t even connect this lazy lizard with the stories of the lightning-fast attacks gators make on their prey.
I warn you, never underestimate a still alligator. Take it from a nature-doc nerd. Never. Underestimate. The. Speed. Of. A. Resting. Alligator. Or you might die. While that gator was resting, it was recharging. It’s aware of the world, but it’s not concerning itself with every little problem and detail. It’s preparing…preparing for the moment when it’s time to move.
And when it’s time to move, you will never see it coming.
I know the misery of being caught in a place where you feel sad every day. Where it seems like the bad news just won’t stop. Where you just want the pain to stop. Where you can’t imagine how anything is ever going to be right again. I know how that feels, and it sucks.
But I promise you, you can survive it. You can outlast it. You can fight it. And you can do all of that, by sitting still and resting.
It’s easy to lose your perspective when you are in the middle of the firestorm. The heat is as close as your right-hand pocket (thank Jesus I was not burned). There are things blowing up all around you and it’s easy to believe that it will never end.
But I promise you, dear one, I PROMISE you! You can outlast this firestorm. Because you are more enduring than the storm. It may be blazing and bright and hot, but you have patience. You have stamina. Your life is not defined by this single storm, your life is going to be an entire collection of journeys, storms, seasons, experiences, and people. You have a future beyond this moment. So hang in there. Let go, and rest.
Was I killed or maimed in that firework shower? No, because while an explosion of green fire may be terrifying, it burns quick and hot and then all that remains to haunt you is a little smoke. When the dust settled my friend was practically in my lap, the children were crying but unhurt, and parents were rushing over.
And I laughed.
Yes, it was that hooray-we-won’t-need-to-use-our-medical-insurance-tonight laugh. I have already visited the emergency room in that particular town on a different occasion and I do not recommend the experience. You could have taken the amount of adrenaline I had flowing and created a seventh Infinity Stone.
But I was alive and unburned. A bit smoky, very done with fireworks for the evening, and miraculously, my pants were still dry. It was a great story afterwards, and I remember that evening fondly.
As for the other firework showers in my life, they haven’t all ended. But that’s okay. Because I am resting. I am waiting. I am recharging. And when the moments come to move, to act, to fight! I will be ready. I am ready. Because I am laying down that which I cannot carry, and resting. The time may come to move before the storm is even over, but I will actually have the energy to face it now.
I know my life is bigger than this firestorm. I know that the same God who kept an entire staircase full of people safe and unharmed during a firework shower is on my side and He is working on my behalf. He’s bigger than any storm, and I draw my strength from Him and rest in His peace. My life is in this moment, but I also know it is beyond this moment.
Be still, and rest. Let the fire burn out before you do, your time will come.
Happy 4th of July, may everyone have a safe and joyful holiday!