An Arsonist Set My Heart On Fire


Cars jockeyed into our cramped parking lot as flames burned the air around us. The blaze climbed higher as though it threatened to scorch the clouds. This fire threatened to take out an entire hillside littered with homes–our church is planted on that identical hillside, just east and uphill of where the fire had begun. Despite Rend Collective Experiment’s appeal to “Set Your Church on fire,” we were fortunate enough that the fire was contained to just two homes and had no effect on our facilities.

As community members recognized that the fire was contained, they took to our church as safe vantage point to view the brokenness. I was absent from this group–not out of lack of desire, but out of lack of knowledge.

FireThough the enormity of the fire had potential dangerous implication for our church, I remained ignorant. I was unaware of the seriousness of situation, the brokenness being experienced, and the pain of a community experiencing loss.

I live next door to our Church–roughly 100 meters away from where the fire burned. But unlike most of the local homes, I live in a renovated business. My apartment used to be a radio station. The building consists of two floors that act as two separate residencies. The top floor was originally office space for the radio station, while the bottom floor was the studio. Unlike the top floor, the bottom floor is soundproof and windowless to maintain the integrity of a broadcast. Given this reality, as chaos ensued outside, I was unaware that anything was occurring.

I found out later what had happened and witnessed some of the aftermath.

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That’s often the case with life too.

An idiom exists that expresses “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” Or to be more direct, you shouldn’t criticize others for the same faults you have. The idea of living in a glass house portrays transparency and vulnerability. That said, your faults are known to others (and you should therefore refrain from throwing stones of criticism).

But I think this image is incomplete. We talk about a glass house as though the danger is people seeing our faults on display, seeing us in our vulnerable and broken moments. But a window is made more to be viewed out than viewed in. It’s not just that people can see us in our glass house, but that we look out of transparent walls and see the world for what it is–broken. There is a lot of brokenness and pain in the world, pain that we don’t want to experience.

So we build.

We build walls of comfort and security. We paint them with a vocabulary of virtue. We adorn them with imagery of God’s pleasure.

We build walls not so that people won’t see our brokenness, but so that we don’t have to wrestle with a world of brokenness.

That is the reality of the suburbs. To be able to go home and live devoid of others brokenness, to abandon community in self-sufficiency and security is a uniquely suburban value.

I’m not saying living in the ‘burbs is a bad thing in and of itself, but I am calling the Church to live in glass houses–houses where we are vulnerable. Where we are vulnerable not only because we are transparent and open and people can see us for who we are but because we allow ourselves to gaze outside into a world of brokenness and wrestle with the pain of others.

When you wrestle with brokenness, you respond. When you are grappling with the pain of the world you are compelled to action.

Our God calls us to the broken places of the world. He has set us on a trajectory of redemption. To be the hands and feet of Jesus to the marginalized, the hurting, and the broken.

I may live a brick house, but I live in a community where brokenness is real and I am not sheltered from the hurting.

And that’s where I need to be.

For more information about the fire, read the press releases here and here.



2 thoughts on “An Arsonist Set My Heart On Fire

  1. I had a similar realization Friday night. I was at Indiana Wesleyan Univ. for a Switchfoot concert. It was part of a huge youth event, where teens from all over come and spend the weekend at college, learning more about Jesus. Awesome. Before Switchfoot took the stage, a band did a worship set and there was a sort of alter call for the youth to take the opportunity to commit their lives to Christ. Again, AWESOME. However, I got this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. The speaker was saying something about how there were 3200 of “us” in the room coming together to experience God’s love and how “our” salvation was so that the person next to us could experience God’s love. What? Also, I couldn’t shake the feeling of being uncomfortable in that comfy, fancy, huge auditorium. I kept think how much money everyone spent to see a band, how much money it cost to build such a building, how much money it cost for the lights, band equipment, stage, etc. I also couldn’t shake the the thought that somewhere, someone was hungry, thirsty, and cold with no where to go. I see people everyday who are lost and broken, with no place to turn, and there is nothing I can really do to change their situation. I can’t buy them a home, pay for their utilities, or even buy them food, but what if we took our money and gave it to those seriously in need rather then spending it on fancy rooms where all the Christians can come together to have a Jesus moment? What if Christians spent their money giving to those in need? What would happen then? I am often uncomfortable in my comfort and will gladly follow the Lord into the darkness of the real and broken world. Thank you for being honest, transparent, and vulnerable in your posts.

    1. I was just reading yesterday about how, on the cross, death became part of God’s character. It’s not just that God had a momentary weakness but came back stronger than ever, but that he took weakness and death into his very being and He is now, consequently, found in places of weakness and death and suffering. Out of death God brings life, out of nothingness he brings possibility. A lot of Jesus moments are orchestrated by lights and music and emotion (and they very well may be real experiences with Christ!) BUT we serve a God who is made known in suffering and weakness. That is where we will find Christ. And so, I too, am uncomfortable with comfort because when I shield myself from brokenness, I shield myself from Christ.

      Thanks for reading! I’m glad it resonates.

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