A week ago I wouldn't have imagined what topics would be coming to mind today. One of the foremost things on my mind in recent days has been the matter of the huge fires in southern California. It's on my mind in large part because Katie is going to school close enough to them that she has gone inside to find ash in her hair; her dorm is permeated with the smell of smoke; and she can see the glow of the fires on the horizon. Whenever I've talked with her she has sounded calm though very aware of the effect it has on hundreds of thousands not very far away. At one point on the phone she was at some viewpoint where she could see the areas that had been burned, and some huge explosion on the horizon that she said must have been an oil refinery. One of her professors and at least six families in the church she's been attending have been evacuated from their homes. That's something that I'd have to experience to fully relate to it. Katie's RA, Jenn, has lost a home to the California fires four years ago exactly, and so this repeat is particularly painful for her.
It's a surreal existence for Katie, living on the edge of lives that have been so marked by it while hers remains somewhat unaffected, still carrying responsibility for classes, homework and all. Her bags are packed in case she needs to leave; she says it would almost be a relief to have to take action one way or another rather than live on the edge of it, going on as before but having the awful reminders of smoke and ash always swirling through her life.
God has provided peace for her, a calm knowledge of His provision. Her sweet friend Haley and she would drive to Haley's grandmother's house an hour away if they had to leave. How great is that, that she already has a backup plan that would be hospitable and even enjoyable--what an incredible luxury of peace and provision!
I talked with my mother yesterday, who doesn't view God in the same way as I do. She called to ask whether Katie was safe at school. After reassuring her that it seemed she was safe, I said at one point that God is good...and she replied, "Yes, but He isn't so good if you're in the middle of a fire." At which point I was able to say that indeed He is. He is! Even in the middle of a searing fire, God is good. I know that if she read the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, she just wouldn't believe it. But it comforts me, sort of like Haley's grandmother's presence, but so much better; in spite of it being so much worse from our end, God's hope is in reality a surer and more lasting provision than Grandma's house. Even if the worst from our perspective were to happen (and of course I pray that it doesn't), our loving God would be right there with Katie and Haley in the midst of it--and He would even then, or especially then, be good, and holy, and loving--and even now they are assured, through faith in Christ, that they have the safest, most hospitable and enjoyable future with Him in the extreme, whether now or years away. That knowledge is peace that surpasses understanding.