The only place I ever found relief was the bottoms of my feet. Somehow they were spared. To my amazement and consternation though, throughout my passage neither the bridge nor my body ever suffered actual burns although I would have never suspected so during the years of trials.
I remember suffering the sensation that my skin was slowly melting off of me as I gasped for another breath coughing and nearly choking on the black smoke billowing around me. From one side of the canyon to the other I held to the heavy rope as the suspended wooden bridge swung side to side throwing me off balance and challenging my every step.
The bridge was miles long with random boards loose and some missing, sometimes several at once. After somehow surviving what may have been several miles, I became discouraged. I realized that each miserable step I took was the equivalent of only one minute in time. And the end I longed to see was nowhere in sight.
I yanked my collar soaked with perspiration and pulled it over my nose and mouth to alleviate the burning sensation in my lungs from inhaling the smoke. My arms and legs dodged the licking flames and falling embers surrounding me while salty teases of relief dripped at random in to my stinging eyes and cotton mouth.
Nearly suffocating through the relentless tribulation, the combustion I endured blistered my face and neck. Occasionally I spun around to shield my face. Once with my back to the flames I began wearily to retrace my steps contemplating retreating to an earlier location which seemed more bearable. However, each time I did, a burst of heat from above forced me to my knees inflicting dizziness and confusion. This significantly delayed my progress.
With my back to the flames, instead of feeling relieved as I expected I was surprised to find myself overwhelmed and as a result, increasingly disoriented. I finally stumbled severely lacerating my knee on one occasion. Once I rose to steady myself, I found it quite difficult to find my focus again as I turned around holding my bleeding knee to limp toward the flames.
When the unbearable heat pressed in forcefully all around, I endured desperate moments of frustration, anger and despair. During these seasons, I occasionally panicked searching for escape. I seriously considered a several times in desperation throwing myself over the rail. Yet between bursts of fire I could make out the massive and unmerciful rocky canyon below.
During early seasons of the passage, I occasionally lashed out to fight the flames pointing the finger, condemning myself or blaming others for the fiery circumstances. It never failed during these times that my finger would suffer crippling pain.
Contrarily, when my squinting gaze held to the faint flickers of glory that I remembered twinkling ahead of me in the distance, I retained hope knowing for certain that an end to the affliction would finally emerge. In my concentrated faith I knew deep down that this ordeal was one chapter in my journey toward home, a necessary step in the process of conformity.
After endless miles of endurance I learned that there was only one way to minimize the agony all around: endure and proceed steadily straight ahead down narrow path while holding fast to the rope. With no consolation anywhere to be found, I suffered least while proceeding with my body and soul surrendered to the flames, my heart surrendered in absolute dependence and my eyes surrendered to fixate securely on my destination ahead.
For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?
1 Kings 1:29
The king then took an oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble,
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace and remain at rest.
2 Timothy 2:3
Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the [Holy] Spirit [Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality].
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.
1 Peter 4:1
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin
You shall not fear them, for the Lord your God shall fight for you.
But charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall go over before this people and he shall cause them to possess the land which you shall see.
1 Peter 4:13
But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
So I ask you not to lose heart [not to faint or become despondent through fear] at what I am suffering in your behalf. [Rather glory in it] for it is an honor to you.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”