I knew it was coming. Like a stretch of whitewater down a river, sometimes we hear the distant thunder or gain a glimpse of a coming event. Long before the fire’s occurrence, as if watching the preview of a movie, I’d seen the hot flames that would course within the walls of our home. I just didn’t know how far downstream those rapids lay.
More than we realize, God speaks to us “deep unto deep” in our dreams. Usually the stories and images are symbolic representations of the issues we are working through, from a higher perspective than our own. But, sometimes, dreams are prophetic—instructing us in what is taking place (Genesis 20: 3-6; Genesis 31:24; Judges 7:13,14) or in what is to come (Genesis 37:5-10; Matthew 1: 20-24; Acts 16:9-10).
I shot up in bed, fully awake as the image of a fire burned in my mind. Flames were coursing along electrical wiring somewhere between the wooden beams or joists in the walls or ceilings of our house. Hitting the floor in a run, I did a frantic reconnaissance. Checking the children, every room and closet, sniffing the air, looking for smoke or any sign of a fire, I found nothing. Returning to bed at full alert with my heart pounding, I lay in the dark beside my sleeping husband, Bill, feeling my utter incapacity to do anything about my impending sense of a coming fire—except to pray.
Wrapping the Future in Prayer
And so, I began to wrap the possibility of a future fire in prayer. This would turn out to be the single most important thing I could do.
I asked for the protection of our children. I prayed that we would be home when it took place, that we would be awake. I specifically asked that our photographs, my mother’s artwork and our most meaningful personal possessions would be preserved. This same dream returned several more times, and each time I responded the same way—checking the house to find nothing, and then returning to bed to wrap the future in prayer.
Deep inside I was being coached. I knew I had to refuse giving in to fear and I was to forcefully place our protection and this fire’s future outcome in God’s care.
Job 33:15-16, NASU
In a dream, a vision of the night, When sound sleep falls on men, While they slumber in their beds, Then He opens the ears of men, And seals their instruction…
Fast-forward Several Years
It was a hot Monday evening in early July. Atlanta had been experiencing a series of violent thunderstorms. Bill had just left for a meeting at church. I was putting the finishing touches on a women’s Bible Study I was about to lead. The sky had darkened with the low growls of yet another approaching storm. With its bright explosion, a near lighting strike lit up the air outside my bedroom window. Shortly after, our son Matt stuck his head in the door to report that the television had stopped working, asking me to come and take a look. Begrudgingly, I laid my lesson aside to follow him to the kitchen. As I passed the stairway I smelled an acrid odor that I’d never smelled before. And in the same instant, the image of that fire coursing along wiring in our house flew across my mind. I knew this was it.
Dialing 911, I had to implore the dispatcher to send a fire truck even though I saw no smoke or flame anywhere. The women were beginning to arrive for Bible Study, and I advised them to not get too comfortable, as I was fairly certain the house was on fire. Running out to the curb so I could flag down the fire truck clanging up the street, I turned to see with horror black smoke streaming out both ends of our attic gables. The firefighters saw it too.
Steady, but intense, they ordered everyone out of the house as they dragged their heavy fire hose through the front door. Cats scrambled, our daughter Christi emerged from her shower in a pink towel asking what the commotion was about, and the women fled from the living room. Matt suddenly appeared, telling us he had just found a hotspot on the roof. (I could only imagine what the firefighters were thinking of this mother, who was so obviously lacking in the protective supervision of her children.)
“Where, son?” they asked. Matt led the way up the stairs, where the fire crew sprinted with hose and axe.
Later, after the ordeal was over, with the electricity off and the fire put out, the firemen took me to the darkened playroom to show me where they had ripped out a wall. With their flashlight illuminating a gaping cavity, I peered in and saw exactly what I’d seen in the dream. Except, now, there was no fire. . . only the charred remains left by the flames that had raced within that wall.
With a note of gravity, the fireman explained that with our house’s frame construction, it would have taken only three more minutes for the fire to reach the attic airspace, where it would have enveloped our home in flame. Three minutes. A dream. An acrid smell. The time it took for the fire truck to arrive. A young boy out on a hot roof. The narrowness of being saved from a peril that God had stripped of harm.
Weak with shock but strong with gratitude, I fell asleep that night in my husband’s arms with a sense of exhilaration. For years, I had known that this stretch of whitewater lay ahead, but now its rapids lay behind us. I couldn’t help but exult in our safe navigation and its perfect timing.