It was on fire when I lay down

Published 4:56 pm Saturday, July 15, 2023

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By Michael J. Brooks

On a lark I located Robert Fulghum’s three books lately and reread them. He was my favorite writer in the 80s, best-known for “All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” My favorite story is the namesake of his second book. Fulghum reported that firefighters rescued a man from a burning bed. They asked if perhaps he was smoking and fell asleep, but he responded, “No, it was on fire when I lay down on it.”

This poor man was obviously chemically impaired that day, and fortunate to survive!

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But I think of this story often when I observe some of us doing the same thing.

I see this in marriages when couples rush into relationships without thinking about the challenges they’ll face. It’s been said that many couples spend more time planning for a 20-minute wedding than planning for a 50-year life.

A couple I know found a local church offering an eight-week premarital course. I told them they were my heroes and I’d use them as an example forever more since they did it right.

Most of the time those in second marriages have learned hard lessons previously and enter the new relationship with greater understanding that moonlight and roses can become daylight and diapers! But there are couples who sign-on for a new marriage quickly “on the rebound” without proper foresight about acquiring new children and perhaps bitter ex-relatives. The bed is burning already. 

Dr. Charles Chandler who founded “Ministering to Ministers” for ministers in crisis situations often talked about “the messiah complex.” Pastors suffer from this when they rush to accept calls to conflicted churches, reasoning “I know they’ve had problems, but they’ve never had a pastor like me!” 

Sam Rainer wrote about a church that had four congregational splits in a ten-year period. The new pastor learned that the previous split happened after a business meeting. Someone in “new business” claimed that a family had stolen one of the church’s Christmas trees. Then someone else said that no one would do this because the trees were ugly, which offended the family who donated them. And then someone else accused members of misusing the church’s photocopy machine. And on it went.

It all made sense when the church secretary told the new pastor he best not mention Christmas trees or copy machines.

This church was certainly “on fire,” but not in zeal for the Lord. 

Wise church leaders do their homework. They take time to discuss issues and programs with key leaders, valuing their insight, instead of rushing into a business meeting or worship service already “on fire.”

Fulghum’s wisdom remains: if the bed is burning, we should be very cautious about jumping into it. 

“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is