“Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god…”
So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire. Then the high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke!
Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him.”
~ Daniel 3:25-28
“Shhhhhh!!!” the “cool” kids mocked loudly, holding their hands aside their mouths and pointedly shooting dart looks at me each time I walked into their junior high circles, tried to blend in.
“We can’t talk about this in front of – HER! Goody-goody!”
“I don’t understand, Mom,” I’d sob at home.
“I think they see something about you that makes them feel guilty,” she’d try to explain. “So they take it out on you, try to put you down.”
I didn’t get that. I never talked my faith or wore it like a necklace…except to a few like-minded. Never gave any outward inkling of my thoughts to them, that I knew. Still, bullies had me pegged. Tagged for often cruel jokes. Whispered and snickered against with steaming looks cast on me and a few close friends. Held us up for ridicule so that lunch hours most always wore on in painful isolation, interminable.
“Light shines against dark,” Mom would explain…
Sometimes, I wished it wouldn’t, I thought then. Yet… knowing One who walked with me in those fires… carried me through many of those years… was the hope I clung to.
Especially as the biggest scorcher of all began burning low and deep like orange and blue steaming charcoals on my horizon, trying to snuff light from my heart…
The heavy pounding on our front door that midnight was like being awakened to find anxiety with a stranglehold around my neck. My sister and I, sharing a bedroom, bolted upright in the dark, strained to hear.
Muffled voices… choked crying… the name of someone who’d once been my defender, my co-conspirator in fun, then become plagued with self-doubts, self-destruction. Dead. My breaths were shallow, like they seemed to have been for the last six years.
It’s over, I exhaled hollowly. Yet… in some ways… so… not.
Like a hurricane, crisis isn’t over in an instant. Wreckage strewn, faith splinters. Yet, if we look through the smoke… we just may see, a fourth man, angel of the Lord, there in our midst… leading us on and out to an even stronger hope….
Before that midnight, my faith had been pretty safe. Innocent.
After…through heartache, and going to sleep to the wrenching sound of …so many nights… of my parents crying softly, muffled into pillows… the light almost…almost!…fluttered out.
Then God tiptoed in and blanketed us tightly. Lit the fire stronger, more sure.
Led us places I didn’t know existed.
To home prayer groups where loving people prayed openly and tenderly for one another. Sat on floors beside the sandaled feet of those in chairs and strummed guitars and sang such rich and simple worship songs I’d never heard…songs and words that rainwashed my soul. Spoke of the bible as words from His heart, love letters to me, to each of us. Drew me deeper to knowing Him as friend, as well as savior… while I just sat and absorbed wordlessly.
On to a group of college friends who daily met in lovely chapel circles, inside stained glass light dancing and flowing and spilling over us and onto the floors at our feet… praying and lifting each other up, talking to God as one of us right there in our midst, sharing…drinking…supping… together of His words. Meeting me with spark and joy in their eyes…
A time of listening to the Holy Spirit… following His Lead …. forming friendships deeper than any I’d known but always longed for, some that have lasted these many, many years even across states and time so that when we come together now it is like no time passed…
A bit of heaven.
Somewhere over the years though, such fervency seems harder to find in the everyday circles of faithful… I think now…we walked in time we didn’t know was so wondrous or unusual. A time we thought might go on and on… and in important ways truly has. But also, a time that was meant to prepare us to go and lead others… To remember, and breathe out with new life… A flame that now makes us want to talk of Him endlessly… wear His heart on our sleeve.
I long today for those worship hours when we were lost in prayer and praise… and time flew feathery long into the night with all of us wanting it to go on and on. Before men tried to stage them and a little of the light seemed lost. I see little flames here and there and pray… Lord, fan them into fire!
Occasionally, I find myself still walking into circles of others, trying to blend in, only to meet unexplained walls… from grown up versions of those long ago junior highers. And discover, it still baffles, stings, snares. Yet…understanding there is often something behind the scenes, a warring, that we do not see, principalities against powers. And still I marvel…if that is what is igniting this moment… How do they even know or see a light when I’ve had no opportunity to really shine it that I can see… not in the always open way I’d like to…
And I wish I could turn again to Mom, with — what’s going ON here?
Even now… I hear her words echoing down the hallway years to me…
“Don’t be surprised, Pam, because others see His light around you even when you don’t know it is there… because sometimes it seems overly bright to eyes that prefer hiding…But oh, for the times it will lead others to finding Him!”
I remember my 12, 13, 14 year old self… wishing it wouldn’t…um, shine so bright.
I think of recent years when I stood in shock, battled something rushing at me so unexpectedly, trying to rob and defeat and destroy. Leaving me so…floored. Spent and thrown. And how…in the midst… I knew once more, the promise of the fourth man in the fire.
Smoke. But no lasting singe.
A beautiful picture comes into my mind... the time I prayed and wrote letters to a stranger, longing to encourage and turn his heart to seeing the One who cherishes him no matter what. Prayed that if we ever came together, God would make him see some light in me. And how when our eyes met, I knew that flash of the Lord saying, behold how he sees Me in you… I will draw all men unto me when I am lifted up…
So that… in this life of often hazardous faith… those are the shining moments that blaze dreams in me. Keep a beautiful old song from those college days singing in my heart… Oh, that many would see His light in my eyes, and instead of mocking, be drawn to the colors of His heart.
“We are like windows, stained with colors of the rainbow,
No longer set in a darkened room,
‘Cause the bridegroom wants to shine through you…”
~ Keith Green, Stained Glass
© Pam Depoyan
I’m sharing My Hazardous Faith Story as part of a synchroblog connected with the release of Ed Cyzewski and Derek Cooper’s new book Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus. To discover more about the book and to read others’ Hazardous stories, click here.