Let me tell you all a little story:
When Jesse and I were in college, we had apartments just a few yards from one another. This led to the brilliant and cost-efficient method of living in which Jesse bought the food, and I cooked it. After a time, he moved apartments to one on an upper floor and I, just as I did several days a week, walked over to cook supper one evening…fried chicken.
Before I go on, allow me to set the stage for you. Jesse’s apartment had a very small galley kitchen in it. I could stand at the stove and lean against the counter on the opposing side. If I were in there facing the stove, the front door would be to my right about 12 feet away with a small patch of linoleum at the entry breaking up the carpet between the dining room and the office. Got that layout in your head? Good. You’ll need it in a minute.
I placed my skillet on the stove, put the pot lid on the counter behind me (just in case), poured in some oil, and turned the stove on low (because everyone knows vegetable oil can catch on fire, so it’s best to be careful on a new-to-you stove, right? RIGHT?! Yeah.)
So, I tested my oil, found it ready, and grabbed my chicken to toss it in. In hindsight, I should have known I was in trouble when the oil was ready on LOW, but I was hungry and young and had never fried chicken unattended before, so I just tossed some chicken into the oil like I knew what I was doing. After a couple of minutes, I turned to get a pair of tongs to flip the chicken….and BOOM!
The pan went up in flames. F-L-A-M-E-SSSSSS!
Now remember, small galley kitchen, front door feet away, pot lid directly within my grasp. I turned around to grab that lid because “smother a grease fire” was something I heard many times over in the southern kitchens of my mom and Meemaw…and when I turned back around, the blazing fire-filled pan? Iiiiiiit was gone.
It vanished straight out of the kitchen and I was left standing there staring at a charred vent hood and empty burner questioning my sanity.
I came out of my fire-induced shock just in time to see Jesse, liquid inferno wobbling precariously in his hand, bolting for the door, black smoke billowing in his path.
*Side note: You would think, at this point, that his concerned girlfriend (or fiancee or whatever I was at the time) would come rushing to his aid. But no. I’m not that type of human. This girl continued to just stand there, clinging to a now useless pot lid…laughing. That’s right. You read that correctly. I laughed. And it wasn’t one of those startled chuckles either. I mean, it started out that way…sorta. But 20 seconds in and yours truly was doubled over hee-hawing like a donkey as her “hero” of a boyfriend/fiance/Ireallyhavenoidea rushed out of the door with a pan full of fire.*
But I digress. So there I was, standing (and laughing, though less uncontrollably) and watching as he flung the pot out onto the concrete beyond his door and dropped to the ground. Rather curiously to me, he began rolling around on the linoleum with clinched teeth. This was strange behavior as the onlooker because, well, that patch of linoleum was on fire (spilled the flaming grease on it, guys).
A few seconds later, he bolted up, grabbed a dining room chair, and stood on it trying to cover the smoke detector with a towel in an effort to stop its languid screams. (This was not successful, just so ya’ know)
I still stood in the kitchen (with my trusty pot lid), laughs sputtering out intermittently:
“Ummm…Jess? What…what was that? Why, umm, why did you do that?”
“Why did I do what? Grab the pan? It was on fire, babe! FIRE! IN the house!!”
“Yeah, I know…but I just turned to get the pot lid because, you know *hesitantly* smother a grease fire?”
“Ooookay, but why did you roll around in the flaming grease?”
He hopped around on his chair to face me, still pressing the towel against the wailing alarm:
“Because”, he said in exasperation. “Because. Because, what’s the FIRST thing you learn about fires? What do they teach you in Kindergarten to do if you’re on FIRE?”
I stared at him blankly.
He sighed. And then he said them. The words that still elicit a laugh from me to this day:
“Stop, Drop, and Roll!”
Folks, I am not ashamed in the slightest to admit here that my poorly stifled chuckles erupted into full blown, eye-watering, breath-stealing guffaws right at this moment.
I. lost. it.
He did the “Stop, Drop, and Roll” right into the fire!!
The next hour was spent convincing him that Neosporin and a band-aid weren’t enough >insert my own eye roll here< to help his melting skin, and a trip to the ER was definitely necessary. Explaining what happened to that poor ER nurse is still one of the funniest things I’ve ever participated in in my life. My hero-man burned the hair off of his right arm, and singed his eyebrows and eyelashes on the right side as well. He still has a little spot on his face where his beard doesn’t grow…and then there was his knee, lower leg, ankle, foot, and toes. You may be wondering what my point is here- other than that I clearly have some sort of disorder that makes me laugh when something traumatic is happening, I mean. Y’all pray for me.
For starters, always make sure your stove is properly regulating heat before you try to fry something, yes? Don’t be me.
Secondly, for weeks afterward, we had to treat the burns down his right leg, especially around his knee and the outside of his right foot and heel. He had superficial third degree burns in those places. We had to scrub them –SCRUB them- until he bled. Every day for weeks on end. Why?
Because deep wounds heal best when they are thoroughly, carefully cleaned out. Because in order for new skin to grow, for infection to be kept away, his wounds had to be tediously managed, mindfully cleaned, and redressed many, many times. He writhed in pain during this. And still I scrubbed, still he scrubbed, both of us knowing the current pain would be worth the healing.
I think the Lord is always teaching us things about who He is with our lives. Jesse’s burns are no exception in that. Healing from wounds often demands a fair amount of pain, of pulling off the bandages encrusted with the seeping of your nastiest cuts, digging out the dirt and grime, finding the bottom where bright red blood freely flows. It’s a scary, painful business, this healing thing. But if you never get to the very bottom of the wound, if you never clean it out, it won’t heal properly.
Now, living the life we’re living, the beauty of the wounding is all the more evident because of the anticipation of the rich healing that comes of it. The beauty of the brokenness of the body of Christ is all the more evident, too, because of what we see here in this reflective existence. I’m not saying the process is pretty. Or easy. Some days, distress is acute in my heart. The daily surrender to the pain. The daily prying off of blood-soaked bandages fused to wounded flesh. It’s often excruciating. I imagine the angst of Jesse’s expression when we would get to the raw, vulnerable flesh underneath all of the goo is an accurate display of the posture of my soul often enough these days. Back rigid, arms tense beside it, fists clenched, chin upturned, jaw locked, eyes squinted, breath stilled until the growls of pain force it outward again. Pain. And yet, it’s just a distant memory today. Only the scars remain now, a reminder of the wounding that once was.
I was watching Jesse walk around our bedroom a few weeks ago and I could see the faint divots along the side of his knee and foot where flesh once turned to liquid, where literal blood-soaked bandages were painfully peeled away so we could scrub out the dead flesh and clean ones were placed again after hours long sessions of willful pain infliction. I smiled thinking about the hilarity of what is known to us as “the fire incident” and the many moments afterward when he was hobbling around our college campus telling everyone that his girlfriend/fiancee/significantother (that would be yours truly) SET HIM ON FIRE trying to cook. Oops. I told y’all we’ve led interesting lives. 😉
I smiled, too, thinking about the scars the God-man, Jesus, acquired on the day when love ran blood red from wounding. I’ve long marveled at the fact that God left the marks on His Son from such a terrible day when he could have taken them all away. Why would Jesus, fully perfect and restored, bear scars? He was perfect, after all. But that’s just it, isn’t it? He was healed of the affliction He bore for us, but that healing left its mark…for us. His perfection for our flaws. He bears the mark of our wounding. His wounds tell the story of the day that blood, which leaves hopeless-to-clean-stains on most things, washed away the darkest stain of mankind. Our stories tell the story of His healing in our lives. Whatever we go through, whatever woundings we suffer, when we allow the Lord to expose them and clean them out, He is faithful to follow through. But he leaves the scar. He leaves the mark, like a memorial, so that when we see it, we remember the pain…and we remember the healing that comes at the end of it.
*Our kids have been singing this song for weeks. It’s sort of stuck on repeat in their minds. I’ve been grateful to hear such sweet words drifting through our house on the hard days. God gives voice to who He is through the absent-minded singing of our kids, and that’s such a grace.
Some of their words aren’t quite the same as the original version…and they were taught to sing “blood ran red” because that’s what their hearing-impaired mamma thought the words were at first. 😉 They use the two words interchangeably now; and we let them, because in this case, the blood that ran red is, in fact, love.