May 10, 2021

Last night we decided to test our fire alarm. Mind you, it actually goes off with some regularity thanks to my culinary adventures [you know how professional chefs experiment with innovative techniques? Others of us experiment with levels of tolerable “crispness” on the bottom of a pot of rice. Or the top of a shepherd’s pie ;-)]

But that’s beside the point. Point being, we conducted an official test:

Coming in from our Mother’s Day festivities, in the middle of a brooding thunderstorm, I set about cozying the house for the evening. When lighting the candle in the living room, I noticed the odd flame on the lighter, with a large, two-pronged flame. It still did the job, so I lit the candle, put the lighter back in the junk drawer, and continued with household routines.

Walking back into the kitchen a few minutes later, I saw an odd glow under the counter. At that point, while I opened the glowing drawer, our fire alarm when off. In an un-thinking, single-motion reaction, I leapt back, reached into the sink and tossed the dishpan filled with “suds” (soapy water left over from our last dish washing) onto the drawer.

Peter was walking in the door as I did this and he, responding to the scene in front of him, swept in behind me, pulled the drawer out from its hinges, and dashed back out the door with it. It didn’t take long for the fire to die, with the water filling the drawer and Peter batting down the flames.

“Guess we needed to clear out the junk drawer,” Peter quipped, as we recovered our normal breathing rate after the fact.

Nodding to the cup of chocolate I had mixed, directly above the drawer, I agreed, adding that I’d also decided to experiment with an innovative new chocolate crème brulée.

All things considered, it was a remarkably damage-free event (a solitary black spot left on the wooden bottom of the drawer, and most of the “junk” in the “junk drawer” relegated to the garbage. The longer-lasting effect on me has been that of gratitude—gratitude for the mystery of instant crisis responses (I know that mothers experience this all the time, reacting instantaneously and without thought to the myriad of potential threats daily life presents to the well-being of a child). In this instance, I was not consciously aware of that pan of water sitting there near the flame—but somehow my split-second survey made it the logical recourse for my problem solving brain. Likewise, Peter had no apparent preparation for the sight of me flinging soapy water across the kitchen; but he certainly didn’t hesitate to wrench that drawer out from the cabinet.

This has been a season of discomfort for me—as it has for many, if not most, of you as well. I often think of the word “angst” when trying to describe the state of insecurity and second-guessing that has been my inner reality more often than not. I tend to argue with myself over this state, feeling that surely I should be old enough to be beyond such feelings of inadequacy. Clearly that is not the realty of my experience as a human being. And because of this fact, I find it wonderfully comforting to discover that, regardless of what I may feel competent in, or confident about, when push comes to shove, we are, truly, fearfully and wonderfully made. We have no idea what we are actually capable of—and I, for one, find this realization to be helpful in the face of the fear that life can, and does, provoke.

A few days ago Peter and I were trying to work through some relational questions/conflicts. He called me out on my tendency to react in ways that suggest an underlying fear. Fear is something I would have likely not been aware of in my younger days of “adventure” and world travels. But I have known for quite some time now that my outwardly bold and adventurous younger days belied my true state of inner fear . . . and that in fact it was the fear itself that prompted many of my apparently bold actions and choices. This is a musing for another day, however :-)

For now, suffice it to say that this same fear is these days making itself manifest in my relationships. There is no room for love in a fear-filled and fearful heart. And what is a life worth if not for love? 

So, Lord help me, I choose to choose love, not fear. 

How did a post about a fire turn into a plea for a life of love? I am as clueless as you, reader, on this question. But, I suppose, in the same way that a body reacts in mysterious and wonderful ways when faced with a call to action, a heart can do the same. May this heart, then, faced with a fear-provoking future respond, instead, with swift action  . . . with bold love.

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