It should have been a trip to the ICU, and instead it’s just a bad hair day.

Yesterday I did something really stupid, the sort of thing I would lambaste my children for. Unable to get my lighter to work, I threw a lit match into our gas grill. Predictably, this ignited a huge ball of fire, which I had the misfortune to be standing in the middle of.

I cannot explain why I am still standing.

I came in the house laughing with relief, my hair like a chimney sweep, ashes thick as moths all over me. My eyebrows stood straight up, blackened, my lashes curled like kindling, smoke spiraled through the kitchen. “What’s burning?” I thought, then realized, “it’s me.”

Maybe you can agree: it is hard for a person of flesh and bone to pray. Prayer is spiritual, ephemeral, from another dimension—not visible, or liftable, or even, usually, audible. It’s hard to pray with fervor and not grow faint, to pray with hope, and not lose heart. It’s hard to grasp the stakes, the nearness of eternity and the incalculable consequences of unbelief, the costliness of sin.

Yesterday, God plucked me straight out of fire, literally. My hand and arm were singed, and hurt, but didn’t even blister. My clothes, dusted in ash, did not catch fire; my eyes, protected by glasses, were undamaged. My hair is now burnt clean off all round my forehead, a quarter inch. Maybe it’ll set a new style.

It was a vivid picture for a girl of flesh and bone—the terror and pain I escaped; the unexpected, split-second calamity; my inability to prevent it. I laughed in sheer relief, but as the adrenaline wore off I found myself shaken. The mercy! The mercy of that salvation!

Easter is just a week away, and I know what it cost to pluck me from the flames.

And so my prayers today are startled. The nearness of eternity looms large, our dance on the canyon’s rim.

Help me, Lord, never to take lightly what You’ve done. Help me never to take mercy for granted. Help me never to take lightly what ignorance and disdain will cost so many souls, in a split second, in a shocking end. Help me, Lord, to fill with your mercy, to offer what words I can for a lifeline.

Live startled today. Let the thin veil that swings between us and forever blow open just enough to catch a glimpse of how close it really is. Thirty thousand days, that’s all we get. One moment we wave a cheery goodbye to someone we love and the next we stand in the doorway of eternity. It is near—so near!—and it is irrevocable. God in His mercy opened the gate to all that is beautiful and good and undeserved. We stand invited into peace, but our position is perilous–at best, our hair is a little smoky.

Startle us, Lord, that we may cry out to You in our need and laugh in sweet relief.

Oh, the mercy.

Photo credit: Unsplash on Visual hunt

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