Altar Call Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

January 16, 2011


Still thankful for God's mercy 30 years later


On a cold day in January in 1981 the phone ringing woke me up. When I said hello I heard the shocking voice of our son Tim blurting out the words, "Dad, my apartment burned up; my car burned up. I lost everything but my shorts! I am lucky to be alive!" A college student, Tim was two hours away; I told him we would be there in two hours.

My wife and I jumped in our car and drove as fast as possible to Monroeville, Alabama. Numb and blinded by tears of gratitude that our son had been spared from certain death, we soon witnessed the smoldering remains of Tim's apartment and his beloved Mustang. He had indeed nothing left but the shorts he had been sleeping in. A kind neighbor had loaned him a jacket and a pair of jeans that were two sizes too small.

Tim described what had happened. He was awakened by a hissing sound. Looking around he figured the sound was coming from the gas space heater in the room. Afraid something was wrong, he turned toward the door just as the room exploded, blowing the door out into the yard where it quickly set his car on fire.

The blast had propelled him toward the doorway, knocking him to the floor. He managed to crawl out, unable to take anything with him. The blazing fire made it impossible to go back inside and retrieve any of his stuff. The hair on the back of his head was singed by the fire but miraculously he was not injured. We thought of John Wesley; our son Tim was another "brand plucked from the burning," a phrase Susannah Wesley used to describe her son John's rescue from the burning parsonage at Epworth, England.

Aware that none of his earthly goods could be salvaged, we bought Tim a supply of new clothes and basic supplies at Wal-Mart and found him another apartment. Without a car, and without any of his prized possessions, he continued his forestry studies at the Junior College. We drove back home to Montgomery, my wife in shock that I would leave our son there instead of taking him back home with us. Years later Tim would say that losing everything was one of the best things that ever happened to him; in a moment of time he discovered what really matters in life. 

A few days ago Tim send me this email: 
"Dad, 30 years have passed since the apartment burned. I was thinking again this morning about the words I spoke to you Dad, Im lucky to be alive. Over the years I have realized a better way to state that would be Im blessed to be alive.  I was saved for a purpose and I need to listen to his voice to make sure I know what the purpose is and fulfill it."

Mom and I are so thankful to God for sparing Tim's life, but even more thankful that this frightening experience inspired him to realize that he was "saved for a purpose," and that it was not luck that spared his life. His life, be believes, is a blessing from God.

Tim went on a few years later to graduate in forestry from Auburn University. He has become a respected forester who serves the Lord daily as he works with people and trees. We admire the man, the husband and the father that he has become. We are so grateful to God for making possible Tims miraculous escape from a fiery death that cold morning in January.

Each of us is alive for a divine purpose. Like Tim we need to "listen" to God's voice and do our best to fulfill the purpose for which we have been given life. We don't have to lose everything to become aware that God has a purpose for each of our lives. But we must be willing to listen and obey to fulfill God's destiny for our lives. Life is a precious gift, so precious that we should do our best to use it for the purpose God intended. + + +