Where do we run when Friday comes . . . what happens when life is reduced to ashes?
Last fall, Texas was enduring the effects of a long and severe drought. Lakes were shrinking. Water sources for cattle herds evaporating. Croplands rendered useless. Trees dying in vast numbers, altering the landscape of Texas for years to come.
Wildfires, the worst on record, also ravaged huge areas of our beautiful state. Hundreds of individual homes were eradicated by their raging flames. Wildlife was threatened. Natural habitats destroyed. Thousands more trees, gone in an instant. Beauty reduced to ashes.
Beauty reduced to ashes . . . so it must have seemed that first Easter weekend as hope died on the cross with our Savior.
For some, hopes for a Messiah who would crash into the known world, demolishing the powers that held sway over the Jewish people. One who would alter the landscape of the world as they knew it and restore Israel to its ‘rightful’ splendor and place among kingdoms.
For others, hopes in the One whose teaching, healing, preaching, mentoring and living was leading a people to be restored to the purposes God intended from the beginning. People who were being transformed into reflections of God. Image-bearers. Proclaimers of the good news of a Redeemer God who desires relationship with each human. Christ-followers who lived their lives intentionally, loving God, loving and caring for others, and caring for creation.
For those closest to Jesus, all vestiges of hope were shredded with His last breath. One simple, powerful statement in John 19:30, . . . (Jesus) bowed His head, and gave up His spirit says it all. Life as many Jews had expected and life as Christ’s disciples had known was gone in an instant . . . .
Life can do that. Things change. Tragedy strikes. Maybe an on-going spiritual, physical, mental or emotional drought finally becomes too much to bear. Or perhaps in an instant the raging wildfires of life have destroyed everything once held dear. Other times, lives are reduced to ashes slowly painfully over months and years. But whether in the blink of an eye or over a lifetime, hope can be erased by our circumstances.
It rather seemed that way for the landscape of Yellowstone National Park, as my family and I drove through its vast acreage almost a decade after the devastating fires of 1988. The fires’ effect was still noticeable as we passed acres and acres of blackened charred trees. Yet even among the devastation scattered throughout those hillsides, thousands of seedling trees were growing out of the fire-enriched soil. Beauty was rising from ashes.
Just last week, I drove through the Texas Hill Country which a year ago was a parched and dying landscape. Life drained away by severe temperatures and lack of rain coupled with a number of raging wildfires. But in stark contrast to the browns and grays of last summer and fall, my senses were awash in the myriad shades of green of the various grasses and trees.
Wildflowers shouted joy. Spectacular in variety, creative in design, their colors splashed across the fields by a Creator’s paintbrush . . . beauty rising from drought. Beauty rising from ashes.
Can beauty rise from ashes in our lives? Can our spirits be nourished by the ashes as parts of this life are burned away? Can we reflect the glory of our God when we refuse to give up or give in to the tough times and circumstances that life may throw at us?
I think to answer those questions, we have to ask ourselves what really is important in this life? Material things? Position, power? Wealth? Reputation? Comfort? Health?
Or could it be that all that really matters is our relationship with the one Holy God through the saving grace of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and being enabled to live life in the present (whatever our reality is) by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Could we be determined, with the apostle Paul that all things would be counted as loss in view of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord . . . knowing the power of His resurrection and (enduring) the fellowship of His sufferings . . . as God supplies all we need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus . . . ? Philippians 3:8,10, and 4;19.
Will we hear that first Easter morning’s announcement: Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. (Luke 24: 5-6)
Will we shout with Mary Magdalene, I have seen the Lord . . . ? (John 20:18)
And as on the way to Emmaus, when Jesus walked with two men teaching, breaking bread – will we be ever vigilant to look for Him in the everyday things of life . . . and their eyes were opened and they recognized Him? (Luke 24:31)
Dear reader, may you know the living One, Jesus Christ. May your eyes be opened to see beauty rising from whatever ashes life has burned around you. May you see your Savior walking beside you.
And wherever you find yourself today, may God’s grace and God’s presence be enough.