Several years ago, we were evacuated from our home. In the thick of a significant drought, with grass resembling hay and crunching under foot like a fall leaf, our area was desperate for rain. Many grass fires had already been extinguished, so when I saw the smoke rising I immediately knew.
It started with just a small line of smoke rising to the clouds-just over the rooflines of homes in my neighborhood. What began as evidence of a fire quickly grew into visible flames. As I stood on my front lawn, I had a growing concern about our safety. Intuition is a great guide in emergency situations. I decided to follow mine by packing an overnight bag and driving to safety.
Not long after we left, the police came through our neighborhood announcing the mandatory evacuation. The fire, which had grown wild, was threatening to jump the farm road that separated us. In a dry season, a tiny spark can cause enough flame to manifest into great devastation.
I’ll never forget driving back to our neighborhood early the next morning. The acres that had been ravaged with fire stretched for miles out the passenger side window. The land was still smoldering, and a thick cloud of ominous smoke hung in the air. We didn’t talk because we were silenced by the thought of what had happened. In a dry season, a tiny spark caused a wildfire.
Driving down the same stretch of road today, I couldn’t help but notice the long-lasting effects of the fire that raged six years ago. Because the land wasn’t cleared, the dead trees stood where they once were full of life. They stood as a reminder that a fire had spread through the area. In the years that have followed, new life has grown up around the dead trees.
My mind entertained the image of the lifeless trees in the center of the new growth. You see, I’m inclined to “clear the land” after a devastating experience, or death of sorts. My tendency is to uproot and remove any evidence of tragedy. Here’s the thing, the dead trees that stand on those acres, they tell a story. A fire tore through the land. The new life growing up around the trees tell a story, too. Growth and new life happen even amid tragedy and death.
The trees are teaching me. When we walk through the fire, the story doesn’t end with death. If we give it time, something new will grow up and around that hard memory. The dead trees on that land speak of a time when fire overtook life, but the life around the dead trees speak of the power of endurance and resurrection.