Monday, September 8, 2014


Here's what I think rubs me the wrong way about the whole Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego story: it's when three guys walk out of the fire, and they don't even smell like smoke.

Don't get me wrong. God can do that. Obviously. And I think it's really cool that God can do that. But it's kind of set up this false precedent for those of us who believe that makes us think that God has to do that. We have forgotten those few little words, But even if He does not....

Because here's the truth: I've faced a lot of fires in my life. I've been around people who have faced a lot of fires in their lives. I'm talking to people right now who are walking through the fire. Every one of us believes in God. 

...And every one of us smells like smoke.

Most of us know you don't just walk away from anything in life without being changed by it. You walk away with smoke all over you and every once in awhile, you're just sitting around not doing much of anything and you smell the smoke again anyway. Like it's right there in the room with you.

People walk up to you and so casually, yet curiously, ask, "Hey man...uh...what's up with your hair?" And you run your fingers through what's left of it before you even remember what they might be talking about, and then you just shrug your shoulders and say, "Man...that's from the fire." Because it's still a little singed. There may even still be a few bald places.

Others can't stop staring at your grotesque features, and you can't think for the life of you what they're staring at and then you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and remember how scarred and disfigured you are. It's all from the fire. 

It changes you. 

That's what I don't like about this story of three Hebrew children. It makes us think it's not supposed to be like this. It makes us believe that if our God were any God at all, or if we were in any way righteous, it wouldn't be like this. We wouldn't smell the smoke. We wouldn't lose our hair. We wouldn't have our scars. But the truth from everything I know about the fire is that I think my life is richer because of these very three things. My relationship with God is deeper, not because I don't smell like smoke but because I smell the smoke nearly every day. It's more than scented my flesh; it's soaked into my spirit.

And you know? I think that's okay. 

Because I smell the smoke and it makes me remember there was another man in the fire. I dare raise my eyes, and I see His form all over again. He was right there with me; He still is. In the words of Nebuchadnezzar, what other God is like this? I run my fingers through my thinning hair and I remember the way the fire ate away at me. I remember what it was like to be there. I pass by a mirror and see my disfigured flesh, the scars that mark my fallen body and I am able even to see something beautiful in that. 

And it's easy to kind of get hung up on all of these things, especially if you buy the Daniel narrative as the ultimate manifestation of God. But in those rare moments when you're able to look deeper, you notice something else, too. Something that takes you by surprise because in the haze, it doesn't seem possible, but...

You're okay. 

You're not untouched. You're not unchanged. You're not unblemished. But you're okay anyway. 

Maybe it hasn't been as miraculous as that moment in Babylon, but the story is the same. God brought you through the fire. And you're okay.

What other God is like this?

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