The smell of smoke lingers in the air this morning. Summertime in California. Of all the threats of natural disasters we face in our state, wild fire is one of the worst. At the moment, there are several burning. Destroyer of landscape, property and lives, it is a reminder of how precarious life can be.
A few years back, while traveling one of the wilderness parks in our area, I saw firsthand the destruction forest fire can have. One moment we were enjoying the views of a lush green vegetation and then, just around a bend in the road, the stark reality of a devastating inferno came into view. Where there had been life now only barrenness remained. What took decades or perhaps even centuries to create, fire had taken its toll in just minutes.
As I gazed out over the terrain, I was struck by the form of the bare land. Its structure had been revealed because the vegetation had been burned away. All the hills and valleys were in full view. The large rocks and the solid earth which could not be destroyed by the flames remained sound.
Life also has a way of catching fire. We strive to create an environment of beauty, happiness and success. All is going well, then flames seem to engulf everything. They storm across the landscape of our comfortable lifesyles taking with them the security we thought we possessed. Destruction and barrenness, disappointment and grief come. Breathing is difficult until the air clears. But it’s then, we see all is not lost. In fact, something has endured the flames.
The day my fire broke out didn’t actually come as a surprise. There had been signs that something was smoldering long before the flames came. I was having such a great time singing Kumbaya and roasting marshmallows, I just chose to ignore it. When the blaze finally erupted, it did its work quickly, destroying dreams and relationships in its path. The devastation seared my soul and left me choking on the smoke for months to come.
But what seemed complete destruction was not so. As I came out of the haze, I could see the foundation that God had built into the relationship He and I shared. He had laid the groundwork far in advance, so when disaster struck, there would be something left that was permanent and steady to stand on.
And that’s what I did. As I stood looking out over what had occurred, I realized the fire had given me a new vantage point. My perspective was changed. The things I believed to be a permanent landscape in my life were burned away but a truly constant and firm Presence remained. I could clearly see God’s unbelievable strength and compassion working in my situation.
As with all burn areas, things started to grow again. Life resumed. I recovered. It was during this time that I really turned to God’s word for strength. It watered the new growth that was occurring in my spirit. After a while, it was hard to tell a wild fire had ever burned through. The scars have slowly disappeared from sight as time has repaired the damage. But more importantly, my roots have grown deeper into God’s indestructible foundation.
I imagine there will come a day fire will burn through my life once again. It’s inevitable as the smell of smoke in summer in my part of the country. However, this time when it happens, I will understand its value.
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us hold on to grace. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”
Hebrews 12:28-29 HCSB