Summary: Contrasting Job with the Rich Young Ruler forces us to consider the priorities in our own life. Our ability to face the inevitable losses and tragedy in life is determined by our perspective on life. By setting our sights on things above, we are better
Whenever the phone rings at 2 o’clock in the morning, you hope that it’s a wrong number, that nothing’s really wrong, and that you can go back to sleep. Middle-of-the-night phone calls are rarely good, as the caller must think it’s pretty important in order to wake you from your sleep.
Melody’s a lighter sleeper than I am, and so she heard the phone before I did, shook me a little and then went to answer the phone (I’m sure that she hoped I would answer the phone, but realized that I hadn’t yet achieved the necessary level of consciousness to carry on any conversation). As I lay in bed, it quickly became apparent that it was not a wrong number, but that something was terribly wrong. Strangely enough, I didn’t immediately start thinking about family members, but expected that it was an emergency in the church family and began thinking about names and faces in our church, trying to imagine what might have happened. I think it really took a while for me to adjust to the fact that it was family member on the phone, and that it was a devastating loss.
In case you don’t know, Melody’s parents had a barn fire very early Thursday morning. Melody’s mother awoke around 1:30 to what sounded like heavy rain or even hail. She looked out the window and saw light—at first thinking it was a car coming down the road, and later realizing that their attached barn was on fire. After calling 911, Melody’s father used a garden hose to try to soak down as much of the connecting shed as possible before the fire departments arrived. Ten different fire companies were called to help fight the fire, which was mostly contained to the barn and connecting shed.
We sat up until about four o’clock, when they called again to let us know that the house had not burned, but that the barn would be completely lost. We went back to bed for a few hours, and then went up to Albion to help them move some things out of the house and spend the day with them. It was a pretty devastating scene, the barn had completely collapsed, and you could see the burnt and twisted pieces of the cars that they stored in the barn. Even though the house didn’t completely burn, much of it was damaged through water, smoke, and the firefighters as they cut holes in the walls, roof, and ceilings to try to stop the fire. While it will be some time before the insurance adjusters and contractors come up with a some plans, I would guess that between 30-50% of the house will need to be rebuilt or completely renovated. Any contents in the house that were not completely destroyed will need to be cleaned by a salvage company before they can be used. I imagine that they will be without a home for at least three-to-four months, and will be without most of their belongings for several weeks.
If you happened to see Melody’s father on the news Thursday night, you would have heard him describe how they feel—in a single word, “blessed.” As I stood and watched him offer a few sentences to the news reporters, I was very proud of my father-in-law…for not only was he a wonderful testimony for Christ, but he demonstrated that he truly lives his life with an eternal perspective. Melody’s parents, while shaken by this tragedy, will survive—precisely because they know what’s truly important in life.
More than once, I heard Melody’s father look at the rubble, shake his head, and remind himself that “it’s all just stuff.” But you know, he didn’t adopt that attitude because he survived the loss of the “stuff.” Rather, I’d suggest that he will survive the loss of the “stuff” because he’s always had this attitude. They know that God is important, and that family is important. With those two relationships in their proper place, their perspective on life is strong enough that we all might be inspired when we see him stand in front of a ruined barn and say that he is “blessed.”
Your perspective on life shifts dramatically when confronted with a tragedy like this—the little things that you once thought were important no longer are. The material possessions that you invested time and money in simply don’t seem as precious. It turns out that at points throughout the night, both of Melody’s parents thought that they had lost the other—while Paul was soaking the shed with the garden hose, the firemen couldn’t find him, but were making Joann leave the house—even though she didn’t know where he was. And later, Paul went back in the house to look for shoes, and couldn’t find her because she had already left. When confronted with the possibility of losing those you love the most, everything else simply fades in importance.