Driving through the Black Hills this past summer, we finished up our holidays surrounded by great rock formations and lush forests. What a fantastic place to explore hiking trails and large stretches of forest. Now and again, around the bends in the road, would be large gaps in the forest. Trunks of trees stripped bare of bark and large stretches of charred land left little of the former beauty. Forest fires, old and new, make their way indiscriminately through these old growth forests each summer. Fire tragedy seems to have no upside and the scar left on the land is not quickly repaired. Thankfully, renewal is one of the Creator’s best gifts. Some of my favourite spots are where fire touched years ago; scars still show on trees but the floor of the forest begins to renew itself with fresh green. I love that certain seeds stay trapped in pinecones that can only be opened with extreme heat or that some plants can’t grow in the shade of the old growth forest and a fire lets the light in to preserve a variety of plant species. Too much darkness can ruin a whole eco-system. Some forests are never touched by fire and they eventually die out completely leaving barren sections. But the meadows which grow out of a fiery past welcome new opportunities for life to continue, like animals and plants that can only thrive in this new environment.
Tragedy comes to our lives in much the same way. We are hurt, lose a loved one, or suffer pain that ruins us. Forest fire tragedy teaches us a lot about renewal. The Creator is all about it.
Fire brings clarity, it burns away the deadfall — we all do it – we store our pain and hurts up just like the dead branches and old logs that sit drying in the base of the forest. We let our priorities get “clogged up”. After a while, we become distracted by the trivial and everyday (usually first world problems) and we need the “fire” to clear it away.
Fire brings in the light clearing out the darkness. Tragedy gives light to decisions, it shakes up our comfort of growing in the same place for too long and makes space for new growth. New strength we don’t even know we have can only be found when the Light is let in. This light is what gives us the hope to see the renewal for what it is: the chance to begin anew.
Fire brings renewal – in the remains of the tragedy this is the hardest thing to believe. You feel like the tree stumps standing alone and raw. When surrounded by forest that is untouched by fire, it is hard to believe that you will ever feel like new again. It can feel like forever while you wait for the joy to return. But this is where the most hope and beauty is found. Here, is where the new ground is cultivated.
The Creator’s renewal is for everyone. His gift of Christ taking all our sins and wiping them away so we can start again is a beautiful story of renewal for each of us. He talks about it all the time in the Bible.
Renew your life (Ruth 4:15), renewed by the Spirit (Titus 3), renewed day by day (2 Cor 4:16), renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31), renewed like a child (Job 33:25), renewing of your mind (Rom 12:2).
What moves me most as I am being renewed is the “renewal day by day” – it’s a process – ongoing – we are not expected to stay the same as we are – we are being renewed by experiencing pain and suffering and trusting Him for the growth that follows.