About 4-5 years ago, my son Daniel and I were planning on spending a weekend together at home . . . the girls were going out of town. Our plans were modest; one of the most anticipated events was cooking up some hobo pies (sandwiches made in cast-iron skillets) over a backyard campfire, and watching late night movies under 'blanket tents' in the family room. So, all week we were looking forward to hanging out, and I saw the anticipation building in his eyes as the weekend approached. Simple plans, safe expectations, quality time.
On Saturday night, we went back to our fire pit and starting gathering wood and kindling. I'm a bit of a pyromaniac at heart, so with bonfire in my eyes, we crafted a beautifully ventilated tee-pee structure that would cook up those hobo pies in no time flat. We stepped back to survey our work, and satisfied that this was the stuff of legend, I struck a match and dropped it in the center of our pile. The first raindrop fell. I looked up, not realizing the storm clouds that had gathered overhead. The drizzle began before I had a chance to get the thing started. It may sound childish, but inside me I began to feel a wild disappointment starting to swell. After a few minutes of failed attempts, I was planning alternatives to salvage the evening and share it in a way that sounded equally exciting. At that moment, I had the distinct impression to ask Daniel to pray for the fire. Doctrine took over, and I dismissed it as wishful thinking . . . but the thought sharpened and poked me again instead of floating away. Again, I resisted as the drizzle turn into a steady rain.
As I got up to leave, the words burst from my lips somehow - a request for him to pray for the fire. He gave me a confused look, glanced up at the sky then down at the fire, and back to me.
He bowed his head and prayed a simple prayer for God to let us have a fire for our hobo pies.
My heart raced as I opened my eyes and stared at the pit, expectation building. After all, I had obeyed a "prompt" in line with the Father's Heart, to let Daniel experience (rather than simply understand) the power of God, and also the simple act of sharing a special memory between father and son. I looked down at him, my heart now full of faith, and lit the next match beside the wood. Nothing. A few more attempts, my heart still filled with faith but perhaps a sliver of doubt now.
One by one, I emptied the matchbook, and now accompanying the disappointment I recognized a hint of anger . . . it was one thing to offer up a "practice" attempt for my sake, but a cruel taunt in front of my impressionable son? Unacceptable. Inexcusable, and completely unnecessary. The walk back to the house was painful and difficult for me. It was now close to a downpour, and my mind was hammering with justification and disappointment, crafting a reasonable explanation to put this thing in context for Daniel to understand. Granted, I'm sure he was just as happy to throw the hobo pies in the oven, no big deal . . . probably no need to offer much of anything. It was raining, we'll do it another time. Here's the thing - it would have been fine had I not asked him to pray. That was the issue. So with an overly heavy heart, I asked him to start getting the blankets ready for a tent as I flipped on the oven. As I walked back to the table to grab the cast-iron skillets, I glanced out through the rain at our firepit, my failed miniature altar reminiscent of the dancing, bloody Baal prophets.
A raging fire.
I stared. I blinked and shook my head, turned away, and looked back. A fully formed fire, right there in the middle of that pit! It was a downpour by now, and the thing hadn't had a chance to get started. And yet, the bonfire I had pictured now danced before me - manifested and forever burned into my memory. With a joy unspeakable in my heart, I called Daniel over to the window. He stared, looked up at me with confusion and then back out at the firepit with a faint smile crossing his young face. That's the other picture burned into me. I raced into the downpour and cooked up the hobo pies over this glorious fire, and shouted silent praises to the Living God, this One Who saw my disappointment reach a dangerous place, a tipping point in my mind and heart, before stepping in and reminding me not to shape my theology on anything less than Who He Is.
I don't know how much of an impact that kind of thing makes in a kid, maybe just one of those cool things that happens every once in awhile. But for me, it was the simple, raw power of God supplying fire in the rain for our hobo pies. Something shifted and clicked into place deep inside me that day, an experience in God that marked me forever - as profound as being healed from cancer, and far more influential than the dangerous layers of doctrinal understanding that have been stored in my brain over many years steeped in lifeless religion. With examples like this along with many others, my confidence in the Presence of Jesus (and the theology He represents) has accelerated rapidly and gained a solid foundation that has shifted my perspective of God from abstract concept to tangible reality.
Ford Motor Company,