It was a cool October night in 1986 when my mom suddenly bolted upright from a dead sleep and walked over to her bedroom window. Looking out, she saw a fierce orange glow dancing on the neighbor’s roof. Fire! Only, it wasn’t our neighbor’s property that was ablaze. It was ours.
By the time my mom woke up me and my sisters and rushed us down the stairs and out of the house, my dad was already in the driveway futilely fighting the roaring flames with a green garden hose. Our garage was consumed and the back of the house soon would be too.
The next day, after the fire had been extinguished and all that remained were black piles of ash, we carefully made our way through the debris and over to the back corner of the yard. My young heart was thankful that our family was safe. (And thankful that my mom responded to my middle-of-the-night wails and had ran back into the burning house to rescue my favorite stuffed monkey.) But now I was terrified that our five chickens were not as lucky.
I looked up at the soot covered electrical pole that towered behind the chicken coop. How could anything have survived?
My mom scooped up one of the Road Island Red hens and began to stroke its auburn feathers.
“Is she… is she dead?” I asked.
Without saying a word, my mom continued to pet the hen. After moments that felt like hours, the chicken started to cluck.
“No, she’s not dead! I don’t think any of them are dead. They’re just frozen in shock.”
One by one, my mom held and patted each beloved bird back to life.
Over the years, I’ve thought back to that scary night and the difficult season that followed. I’ve thought about God’s grace in waking up my mom and protecting our very lives. I’ve thought about God’s kindness in providing the rental house we moved into and even the craft store Christmas ornaments we painted that year because all our cherished decorations were lost in the fire.
But the miracle that comes to mind most often is how God chose to save our chickens.
The heat and smoke alone should have been enough to snuff out their lives. The fences showed evidence that the fire licked its way around the entire perimeter of our yard. And yet the coop remained physically untouched. The chickens, however, were not unmarked by the trauma. They were like five feathered statues frozen in place. It wasn’t until my mom came into their space and reassured them with her presence and touch that they were able to re-engage with life. It’s a story that mirrors our lives in many ways.
Have you ever felt spiritually stuck? Mentally or emotionally frozen, unable to move forward because of pain, grief, or trauma? I know I have. It’s in those very seasons of turmoil and overwhelm when God’s presence can help us find our way back to life.
When my dad died suddenly at the age of 59, I felt paralyzed by the shock and uncertain of how to process my grief in the throes of mothering a toddler and baby. But God was there. He was present in the friend who hugged me when I dropped my boys off at her house so I could have a little space. He was there when I drove my minivan around the block and parked on a random street, turned on worship music, and just cried. In that season, I experienced the truth of this promise: “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18, CSB).
My sorrow didn’t immediately subside, but I learned that I could still move through life because God was mindful of my broken heart and He was near.
When my clinical anxiety disorder flares, I can easily feel stuck in the mental cycles of overwhelm. When my body floods with extra adrenaline and my mind won’t stop racing and sadness surges, I too become like a statue — cemented in by feelings that seem impossible to fully name or change. Like the hens who made it through the fire, I need someone to come alongside me too and offer the assurance of their presence. My sons do this in their gentle boyish ways, bringing me tissues and wiping my tears. My husband wraps me in a hug when I have no words. And I imagine Jesus petting my hair as I fall asleep for an afternoon nap.
Isaiah 40:11 tells us that “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” God doesn’t expect us to navigate our trauma or move forward in our weakness alone. He draws near to us. He isn’t scared of our brokenness, our messiness, or how stuck we may seem. He delights in picking us up and carrying us.
Flames will come. They may destroy property, mar relationships, and even scar our hope. But God. But God is still writing our story. And the plot line always gets better as we look for how Jesus is stepping into our ashes and creating something beautiful.
Need more encouragement for when you’re feeling stuck? Follow Becky on Instagram for her video series, A Verse a Day for the Anxious Soul.