All of us have experienced overwhelming signs of the deadliness of nature. Lightning struck Montana in the middle of summer and a wildfire season hit that is worse than anything most of us have seen. I know all about fire season because I grew up in fire country of Southern California. If someone tosses out a lit cigarette, that person could be responsible for thousands of acres of destruction, and even worse, loss of human life.
In contrast, somewhere there are flowers blooming and scenting the air. Trees reach up and touch the blue sky. It’s a cycle that we will not change in this world. It’s difficult to consider our blessings when we’re experiencing illness, tragedy, heartbreak. I’ve found that during the most trying of times, that’s when I most need to count my blessings, smell the flowers, indulge in a beauty only God and a good gardener (not I) could produce.
I once watched the fires inching down a mountain toward my California home. I have watched a tornado form above me in the Missouri sky. I have lost my hometown to a huge tornado, and have feverishly searched for friends after recent hurricanes. I have prayed and cried with many others at the destruction and suffering taking place all around us. I have choked on the smoke drifting to us from the Montana fires, and urged a friend in Oregon to come stay with us when the Gorge fires threatened their home.
At times like this, when so much seems lost, when I wonder if the end is near (yeah, I’m a drama queen. Deal with it.) it’s time to step outside and allow the creative genius of the former owners of this home to calm me. I pull some weeds, get dirt under my fingernails, wince and bite my tongue when a thorn gets me because I forgot to wear gardening gloves, and feel as if I’ve touched on something fundamental. There is truly beauty from ashes. Human kindness shines most brightly in the face of human suffering. Good ol’ boys get high from rescuing those in need.
It occurs to me that, even though I would much prefer the tragedies never strike, often a tragedy, much like a fire, clears away the dross that sometimes makes mankind ugly, and brings out the heroism some folks didn’t know they had. Many a man and woman found their inner hero helping the flood victims in Texas. Many more have found their strength fighting fires in the Northwest. Florida, faced with a Goliath of a hurricane, discovered their bravery and endurance. The losses will never be fully counted because they are so great, but the people will gain strength they never knew they had as they stand together and fight.
God knows how to turn death into victory. He can take our darkest hours and turn them into the defining moments of our lives. It is the trials of life that become the Refiner’s fire. We will never be the same afterward, but we can trust that God will guide us into what we must become.