The first time I met Jesus, my house was literally burning down. And, although I had never met Him before, I was pretty sure He was the one who had started the fire. As thick black smoke boiled into the night sky, and orange balls of flame consumed my house, I was sure I was looking at the hand of God, destroying nearly everything I owned; tearing me out of the life I had known in Oregon.
In that moment, I was sure only death awaited me if I remained tucked away in my commune, nestled deep in the coastal range mountains, outside of Eugene. The days of drugs, sex and endlessly dreaming of robbing banks had brought me to the end of the line, and I knew it. The madness of my heart had only one destination, and as I stood in the dark night, I wrapped a Red Cross blanket tightly around my shoulders and turned my back on all that had gone before. Then I got in my car, our only possession that hadn’t burned, and headed home to Indianapolis.
Many people find that their first experience with the LORD is having God burst into their lives, like a fireman coming to rescue a little child who is huddling in a closet; in the vain hope that she is safe from the encroaching flames. Jesus can be a scary sight. Face covered with a mask, axe in hand, He breaks down the locked doors we have closed to keep ourselves safe from the trials of life. Few people suspect that it is God who set the very fire that is burning down their lives.
When Messiah builds up the waste places in our lives, when He restores the “desolation of many generations”, he often begins by clearing away the rubble. The shantytown of hovels we have built to hide in are swept away, and the ground is left bare. Then God begins to build. The first thing He does is to dig a hole deep into our soul; laying a sure foundation in the deepest part of our heart. As He digs down, God scatters His love into the nooks and crannies, the secret dark places of our innermost being. It is only then that He reconstructs our lives, bringing resurrection life to dry bones, raising up people filled to overflowing with life.
As I sped across the Utah desert, a herd of elk spread across interstate 80. At seventy miles an hour, I slammed into a giant elk in the darkness. As I stood by the side of the road, my car ruined, with nothing to go back to and nothing ahead of me except five hundred miles of empty desert; I quit running and, looking into the star filled sky spread out before me by the hand of the Living God, for a moment beheld the one who sought me.