I had some large branches that had fallen into our yard that needed to be disposed of. Since I didn’t have anything to haul them off, I decided I would burn them in our gravel driveway. At the time, about 30 years ago, it seemed like a great plan.
Mistake number one: I didn’t use enough tinder and kindling to get the bigger branches burning. After a short-lived fire the majority of the branches were left only blackened, not burned. I was back to where I had started; only now I didn’t have any tinder or kindling left to try another fire!
Mistake number two: I became impatient to hurry up and finish what I had started. Rather than go to the time-consuming, pain-staking work of finding or making larger amounts of tinder and kindling, I wanted a quick remedy. I have since added a note to self in my foresight file: impatience can get you into big trouble!
Mistake number three: Flawed thinking. Surely what works well for internal combustion will work well for external combustion also. And just because my quick remedy was readily available it didn’t mean I should conduct an experiment to test my questionable theory.
Mistake number four: Inadequate preparation, especially if my theory be proved to be ill-advised. I hadn’t checked into any local ordinances on open burning. I don’t remember having a fire extinguisher or water hose ready to use. I didn’t look up the fire department phone number in case I needed to call it quickly (this happened before 911 came into existence).
Mistake number five: All the above. In my flawed thinking I figured I would try re-lighting the fire after I poured just a little gas from my five gallon galvanized gas can on the bigger pieces of wood. Because of my impatience and poor preparation, I didn’t verify the fire was totally out.
Miracle numbers one through four: In spite of all the stupid mistakes I made that day, I wasn’t burned, there were no explosions, the fire didn’t get out of hand, and I doubt if anyone found out how foolish I was— until just now.
Moral number one: Pouring gasoline on a fire is not only dumb, it could be deadly!
Moral number two: What is true with a physical fire can be true with all kinds of fires. Like fire, some thoughts, words and deeds have so much destructive potential that we must think them, speak them, and do them, only with extreme caution. To add any kind of flammable material into the mix invites greater disaster!
In the end, I aged a few years, ruined a good gas can, borrowed a truck to haul the blackened remains to the dump, and learned a powerful lesson. Don’t play with fire, any kind of fire. Most times we will be burned. Most of us have the scars to prove it.
Bruce Hendrich is the Pastor at Oak Street Baptist Church 804 Oak Street • Elizabethon, TN 37643 • 423.542.4022 • oakstreetbaptist.net