My House Burned Down last week.

It was my fault.

Our house burned down in August 2006.

Originally published as an article in “Take 5” -September 2006

by Mark Moder

My house burned down last week.

I was in a meeting.  My wife was working.  The kids were home watching cartoons while a stain rag spontaneously combusted in the garage and proceeded to consume my house and send my life into a tailspin.  Thank God my kids got out.  My 9th grader kept my younger son from opening the door to the garage where the smoke was coming into the house from.  He said he learned it watching cartoons.  Thank God for TV.  Just this once anyway.

It’s been interesting to be in the middle of a crisis from this side of the coin for a change.  As a youth worker we are constantly coming along others in the midst of their turmoil to offer help and support, but I’ve not ever been the guy needing help.  In fact, I’ve never been the kind to ask for much help at all.  I’ve always been a “Git R Dun” kind of guy.  Or In the immortal words of one of my earliest mentors, “There is no try, only do or do not.”  (Yoda).

Yeah, that’s not really working too well for me these days.

People are like, “How are you?” “What do you need?” And since it was so absurd for me to give my usual response, I’ve had to be honest.  “Um, I mostly need everything.”

As pastors I think we’ve been conditioned to not have many needs.  We are the ones who help… not the ones who need help.

It’s been amazing to watch the family of God surround us and support us in our time of need.  All the guys from my old worship team showed up at the scene the day of the fire, and while the house was still collapsing around us, they helped me salvage what we could before the ceilings caved in.  I didn’t have to call them.  They just showed up.  Another friend handed me $500 cash and the keys to an empty house.  And although we ended up somewhere else, it was a huge relief knowing that we had someplace to go if we needed it.  Another friend showed up that afternoon and just stood by me the entire time. He didn’t say much, for sure nothing profound came from his lips.  He just stood there with me. I needed that.  And although Job’s friends get a bad rap for their lousy advice, to their credit they did tear their clothes and sat quietly with Job for the first week after his world came crashing down.

It’s been funny to watch people’s response to us.  We were on the front page of a couple local papers.  It seems like almost everyone in town knows.  We can’t go anywhere without people engaging us.  It’s cool that people care, but I’m honestly almost sick of talking about it.  It’s the same conversation, a thousand times over and over.

After you get done talking about the facts, a lot of people want to assign some cosmic blame or find some kind of purpose in our fire.  Either Satan caused it because he’s attacking us, or God caused it because He has some divine purpose for our pain. Maybe it’s just me but I’d rather not do either for now.

Isn’t it just possible I made a mistake and threw the rag away when I should have doused it in water instead?  It bothers me that people have to move so quickly to find purpose and understanding in our painful situation.  I know this, in the future I will feel less pressure to have answers for people in their crisis and instead simply try to walk with them through their pain; I don’t want answers, I just want support.  Let me know you care, that you’re praying for me, that if there’s anything you can do to let me know… that sort of thing.  Honestly I don’t even know what I need.  I can’t think that far ahead, I have too much to do right this moment.  In the future I will simply drop in on people in crisis and give a hug and a card with a gift certificate for a movie or dinner or something.

Last night was our first night in our new place.  It’s a rental, a nice place near the lake.  We have rental furniture that insurance is paying for and are getting settled. It’ll take a while for things to return to normal, whatever that means, but I know it’s around the corner somewhere close by.

I can say this… God is good.  No doubt about it.

Job says in chapter two to his buddies.  “We take the good days as from God, should we not take the bad ones too?”  That’s so true.  I can’t see His purposes in this yet but I trust God and I believe in Romans 8.28.  I also believe that if nothing else, God wants to glorify Himself through me, even through my pain; maybe especially in my pain.

To quote myself from front page of the paper the other day:  “It’s just stuff.  We have everything we need: our family, our friends, and our faith.”

Like Mary, I’m pondering all these things in my heart, to see if God is saying anything else; but for now I’m going to stop asking the “Why?” question… it’s the wrong question…. I may or may not ever get an answer to it.

The question I’m asking God these days is this:  “What now?”  “How do you want me to respond to this?”  “Where do I go from here?”  A wise coach once said, “never look at what you’ve lost, always look at what you’ve got left.” I like that.

The last thing I think God is saying through all this is this:

Skip your next meeting and spend it with your family or he’s going to burn down your house. Okay, so maybe the smoke did get to me a little bit,… But seriously; it’s all going to burn someday anyway.

~Mark Moder


About markmoder

One Response to My House Burned Down last week.

  1. markmoder says:

    Author’s note: this was written in August 2006, a week after our house fire. With the pending sale of our rebuilt home later this month, I thought it would be fun to publish some of the stuff I wrote out of that event.


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