Smoke poured into our bedroom at 4:00 A.M., fifty-four years ago letting us know our apartment building was on fire. Connie had the presence of mind, and the knowledge as a teacher covering fire safety at that time, to keep me from doing something dumb like opening the door to the stairwell that was ablaze. We were newlyweds of four months and our lives could have been cut short, but God in His grace spared us.
Last weekend we retraced some steps down memory lane in the Twin Cities area that included seeing that fateful apartment complex at 4120 Nevada, in the suburb of New Hope. As I thought about the incident the scripture from Psalm 91:11 came to mind. “For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways.” In retrospect it is certainly evident that the Lord protected us in a unique way on that cold November morning when we climbed down the fireman’s ladder.
Connie reminded me that prior to the fire she had contemplated an evacuation route from our third floor window. Her ingenious plan was to tie bedsheets together and use them as an escape rope. Fortunately for us the firemen came within minutes and hoisted a ladder to our window. This is the window where we exited the burning building and the smoke filled bedroom.
The fire was started in a lower level apartment by a cigarette from an inebriated neighbor. The open staircase in the middle of the building acted like a wind tunnel to spread the blaze to our top floor apartment. All the other residents tried to exit via that stairwell and as a result lost their belongings to fire, heat or excessive smoke damage. But God preserved us and made it possible for our Grace Journey to continue relatively unscathed.
About a year later Connie was spared again, while driving a carload of young people from our new youth ministry in Illinois. She swerved to avoid disaster as a driver was coming straight at her — the wrong way — on a freeway. Our Grace Journey has been punctuated several more times by close encounters with danger, but the Lord has brought us through them all.
That 91st Psalm became especially precious many years later when we saw our son go into harms way during the Gulf War. Verse two became a powerful source of strength where the Psalmist says, “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and fortress: my God; in Him will I trust.” God’s grace has proven profoundly sufficient for the journey — even through fire.