I grew up in a central Indiana trailer park that smelled of antifreeze and the continuous waft of a neighbor’s cigarette. A half-charred trailer leaned at the park’s entrance, a monument to the short-lived relationship between fire and manufactured homes. All my family’s coming and going was marked by the collapsing shell of someone’s former living room. I wanted to look away, but at five years old, I was compelled to stare at the remains every time we passed.
Even after it had finally been leveled, the image of that trailer remained burned in my brain. At night, alone in bed, I’d think about fire, how it could snatch my happy world with one lick. I’d pray feverish prayers until the panic burned away and I fell asleep.
Fire introduced me to fear; fear introduced me to prayer.
We moved from the trailer park when I was seven, a few days after my dad’s graduation from seminary. My late-night prayers continued, often fueled by new fears – car crashes or plane crashes, mostly – and other times fueled by beauty. My younger sister and I shared the upstairs room, where we’d giggle about things well past our bedtime. She’d fall asleep first, and I’d lie in the silence, my eyes toward the small window that framed the moon perfectly in summer months. That’s when God seemed closest.
At the office entrance of my dad’s second church hung a picture of the Emmaus travelers on a long stretch of road. There was an energy about them, an excitement in the way they leaned toward each other, an eagerness in their walk. Below the painting was Luke 24:32, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” That kind of burning from within was incomprehensible, but even at twelve, I knew I wanted it.
I wanted to see God.
But by age fifteen or sixteen, a few years after moving from rural Ohio to Florida, I felt that the growing burn within me wasn’t good. The Florida heat, beaches, and orange-scented air suited me, but the culture shift was more than my young body could metabolize. The South was vibrant and diverse. And it was fast. The kids knew more and tried more. There were rules about “yes ma’am” or “no sir.” There were boys and their attention. There was pain.
Read the full article at the Redbud Post.