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One of the highlights of a winter trip to Montana several years ago was a snow coach tour through Yellowstone Park.   On the trip we passed through a vast area that had been consumed by fire in the late 1980’s.  Tall, charred skeletons of trees still remained to echo the devastation of the fire.  However, in the thirty years since the fire, a new forest had grown, full of gorgeous pines that were vibrant, green and alive even in the frigid winter.
When I remarked on the contrast, our guide explained that nearly 20 million acres had been burned in the fire because it was allowed to burn unhindered.  Apparently, the policy of the Forest Service is that they do not intervene with fires that are due to natural causes unless they threaten humans.
In the case of Yellowstone Park, the seeds of majestic evergreens are locked inside very dense, tightly closed pine cones. The cones fall to the ground, but the only way for the seeds to be released and become new trees is for the cone to be subjected to extremely high heat.
Like a forest fire.
It turns out, the forest actually needs fire if it is to reproduce and grow.
As I listened to his explanation, it occurred to me that this natural phenomenon reflects a spiritual one.  So often, we see “fires” in our lives as solely destructive forces—things to be avoided at all costs.  If a fire starts, we feel it MUST be extinguished, and we invest tremendous effort in stopping it.
A child with special needs, cancer, the loss of income, the loss of a loved one….all are fires that can engulf us.   In our limited view we cannot see what could be good about the trial; we cannot see why a loving God would allow an uncontrolled fire to ravage us.
But just maybe God allows the fire so we can grow.
Perhaps, like the pine trees, the seeds of our growth are locked tightly away, unable to be released unless intense heat forces our hearts to open and release that which we cling to.
In my mind, I picture those seeds as the things in my heart that I cherish more than my God. I clutch them, protect them, think I can’t live without them. Others are dreams that God has placed in me, but out of fear or insecurity I hold them in. However, they are not doing me or anyone else any good locked away in that pinecone. Yet when the heat of trials cause (or force) me to release them, lo and behold, the result is something marvelous and alive.
My Savior is infinitely creative and wild. Yet even in what seems wild and chaotic to my feeble understanding, there is order, divine purpose, and rebirth. He can even even bring growth out of the devastation that results from the “man made” fires caused by my sin or someone else’s.
I pray that God will grant me the courage and wisdom to recognize holy fire in my life. I pray that I will trust His goodness enough to resist the urge to put out fires that will ultimately result in beautiful new growth for me or others. Oh, I pray that when He allows fires, He would accomplish His purpose in them and make me and those around me “oaks of righteousness.”

One Comment

  • Avatar Maribel says:

    Love this Mary. Could have read this a couple years ago but then would I have heard the words or been to engulfed in the flames to notice the work God was doing.

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