On December 2, 2010 Israel experienced the largest wildfire in the country’s history. The blaze broke out in the Carmel region. It Spread over large swaths of land overnight, the fire quickly consumed 5,000 acres before emergency crews extinguished it. Over forty people were killed bringing sorrow and despair to a nation. The Jewish people pleaded with their government to be able to instantly replant. They described how spiritually important trees are to them, so much in fact that the Torrah means “Tree of Life.” They finally relented to let nature take it’s coarse and one year later the blackened country side was covered in wildflowers, ferns, and teeming with new life.
Fires bring death and devastation in the natural, but how about in the spiritual? Has your heart ever felt consumed by hardships that rage on your emotional well-being? When these horrific flames race across our personal landscape and consume everything in their path, leaving a smoking blackened corpse behind, it is hard to imagine the robust regrowth waiting to reclaim natures beauty.
There are flowers called Cape lilies or fire lilies that lay dormant until flames brush away the covering, allowing them to blossom overnight. Our creator truly gives us beauty for ashes, and joy for our morning. There are also trees like the Lodgepole pine that rely on the pulse of a flame through their crowns to melt away the waxy bond that holds their cones closed; their seeds then fall to fresh ash below, where they can take root without much competition. Sequoia seedlings flourish best on deep-burned sites of grasses.
Nature goes a step beyond restoring itself like an artist who painstakingly restores a damaged painting back to its original. Nature evolves through natural disasters such as forest fires. It adapts to it’s changing climate and atmosphere. There are different species such as orchids, bulbous plants of every description, pink and white, navy and pale blue that delight the eye. The slopes turn green with re-sprouting resilient plants, some protective grasses, while seeds from Everlasting bushes, as well as other, bury themselves happily in the nutrient full ash and sprout when the first rain arrives. New shrubs and ground vegetation is appealing to different kinds of wildlife that travel to and populate these new areas. In life’s hardships we are finding regrowth of courage, strength, compassion, humility, and probably new found wisdom that will help us to continue to thrive in our changing environment.
I wish we could suppress all of life’s fires in the natural and spiritual, but just like nature needs the fire to strengthen and adapt to an ever changing environment, we also need the adversity in life to become resilient. Most of us have heard the word, resilient, but do we know what it actually means? The official definition is the power or ability to bounce back. Capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture. Able to recover from misfortune.
A perfect example of this is the song bird called the Kirtland’s warbler which only nests in Jack pine trees. When conservationist found out that “fire might be the worst enemy of the bird.” according to a 1926 article in Audubon magazine, they tried to sustain the birds existence by suppressing the forest fires. What they didn’t understand until it was almost too late is that the warblers nest only in Jack pine woodlands that is a “fire species” tree sustaining itself only where there are periodic fires.
We were not only meant to go through adversity, our spirit thrives on it. I am happy to report natural fires are not seasonal but only cycle every 10 – 20 years. In one year my father died, my daughter was raped, my son admitted he was an alcoholic, and dealt heavily with depression, and besides a few other things that I choose not to speak about, a young man that was like our son didn’t show up for thanksgiving. When I drove to his apartment I turned the corned to find he had committed suicide. My heart felt like it would never recover. I went through the steps of grieving, and thought I would live as a spiritual and emotional burn victim my whole life. But I am glad to report 2 years later God has healed my heart. I am not the same person I was 2 years ago. I am wiser, stronger, and more purposeful than before. I would also like to report that my son is recovering and doing amazingly well, my daughter now councils young girls at school and is joyful and full of life. God has truly given our family joy for sorrow. That doesn’t mean there aren’t time when I turn a corner, think back and shutter, but I have an assurance that God has planted Joy beyond measure in us, and made us resilient.