Last year, in an area about 20 miles from our home, a devastating fire sped through the hills destroying everything in its path. All bushes, grass, and most trees were completely annihilated and the highway through the area was closed for days. A week or so after the last fire truck left the region my husband and I went to view the damage from the road. There were remains of fallen power and fence lines running parallel to the highway. All ground foliage and low tree branches were gone. The higher branches on the few trees that remained were charred. Even the boulders were speckled with black and white ashes. The entire region looked as if it had been cleared by a horde of locusts.
It’s been almost a year since the fire swept through the area.
So imagine my surprise when my husband took me for a drive on the same stretch of road last week and for miles along the road and on the hillsides were acres and acres of purple and white lupines and gold and yellow poppies. I was awestruck. We got out of the car and took photo after photo. Other passers-by had the same reaction evidenced by the crowd of people with cameras who gathered around us and every other small pull-off along the narrow road.
As I stood there amazed at the sight, I marveled at God’s creativity. I wondered what the view must be from heaven and whether God enjoyed the fragrance and vision as much as all of us did. Then I thought, “How like God. While we were all bemoaning the loss of plant life the summer before, God was planning this extraordinary display of color and scent that could not have happened without the fire.”
On the ride home I continued to ponder the meaning of what I’d seen and realized how often God refines us and those around us with situations that burn like fire. Sometimes the pain is so intense we feel like we cannot survive, as though our lives are totally devastated. But we do survive, and in time we emerge changed and surprisingly beautiful, a more accurate reflection of our Lord.
The changes that come about in our thinking patterns and habits as a result of the refining fire make our lives more attractive to the people around us, those in our sphere of influence. We even begin to emit a fragrance that is pleasing to God.
While I wouldn’t invite the fire into my life, after it has passed I am grateful for the beauty that arises from the ashes.
by Sharon Allen
“To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.” (Isaiah 61:3)
Lord, thank you for seeing what I cannot see and bringing forth beauty from the devastation that at times passes through my life. When next I enter into a fire, help me see my situation through your eyes and standing on tip-toes, anticipate the glorious transformation you are bringing about through the flames.