My feet dangled, my legs not yet long enough to graze the floor of my sixth-grade health classroom. On my desk sat what would be our text for the school year. We were instructed to turn to a chapter to begin that day’s teaching. While flipping through the pages, one page in particular caught my eye.
The world around me went silent. I stared at a page full of statistics next to pictures of families crying and broken beer bottles.
Child who lost their mother. Check.
Child of divorce. Check.
Child from a (recovering) alcoholic home. Check.
The check list went on.
As I glanced around my classroom, I realized I wasn’t alone. Many of my school friends were destined, according to Sixth Grade Health, to lives of brokenness and reject. This didn’t seem fair.
That day, I made up my mind that a health book wouldn’t tell me who I would grow up to be. I wasn’t sure what all that would entail. Little did I know, that Jesus would come into my life a year later. The only one who could truly break the cycles of sin and the trajectory of my future.
Nine Years Later….
My feet gently rested on the wooden floor of my Colorado home for the summer. I watched as my host mom, Shannon, scurried around the kitchen cleaning and organizing. Just having turned 22, I had a lot of questions about who I was becoming and growing into. More so, I had a lot of concern for what other people thought I would become and grow up to be.
I felt like an imposter. I didn’t feel very fit to be a pastor or an academic.
“They all know it. They know I don’t belong. That I don’t fit the mold. That I’m not smart enough. Capable enough.
They must know that I am not enough. I am afraid they won’t give me the chance.”
Shannon stopped and turned, facing me squarely, and said, “You don’t smell like smoke. When I met you I never thought for a minute you smelled like smoke.” She then referenced a story in the Bible found in Daniel 3.
In Daniel 3 we read about King Nebuchadnezzar and how he threw Shardrach, Meshach, and Abded-Nego into the fire for not worshipping his golden image.
No matter how hot the fiery furnace got, they would not burn. When the King peered inside, he saw not only the three men he cast into the fire but a fourth who was “like the Son of God.”
Picking up at the end of the chapter we read:
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and spoke, saying, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here.” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst of the fire. 27 And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them.
Though they had experienced fire, they came out of the furnace and not one smelled like smoke.
The reality is that when God joins us in the fire, He not only protects us from the flames but cleanses us from the smoke. Maybe you have found yourself there- feeling like because of your past others will be quick to condemn you. Can I remind you today that because of Jesus, you do not smell like smoke.
You are not to carry the smoke of your past. Whether you are a product of a broken home or poor decisions. Whether you chose your path or it was chosen for you.
When Jesus enters the scene he not only saves you from the flames of the present, He purifies your future.
My feet firmly planted on on the cold ground. I knew I should have worn shoes out into my Michigan yard, but there are only so many more days until snow. The breeze caught my hair and I gently heard my Father whisper, “You don’t smell like smoke.” And I smiled responding, “I know.”
*Shannon later shared that the smoke analogy was inspired by Beth Moore’s Daniel Bible Study. Check it out!