Death by Fire
“There is so much sadness in the world. It’s hard to see the beauty.”
During a commercial break during the Bulls-Lakers game last night, I gave Twitter a final check for the evening. There, in the midst of all pro-Derrick Rose tweets was the quote above, from a thoughtful female blogger in Chicago that I follow. Honestly, her tweet knocked me off balance. Less than 48 hours before Thanksgiving, her lamentation pushed my analytical side to evaluate my world. Was it, too, filled with sadness?
A year ago at this time, Angie and I had just started marriage counseling with the esteemed Don Morris. Divorce papers were still on the books, although we were in a holding pattern with them. I was a couple weeks away from being diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety. There were only a few people on the planet that could weather my toxicity enough for me to discuss my life with them. I was fully addicted to my self-reliance. I was a disaster of epic proportions.
Last night, TD and I were watching a NatGeoHD show on the forest. If you want evidence of a creator, I’m not sure there’s anything more convincing that watching NatGeo. The elegant design of bugs and plants that depend on each other for life — really, the whole ecosystem of a forest is amazing. After showing how the ecosystem works, the show focused on a lightning strike that started a forest fire. Within a couple hours, a huge swath of forest was gone. In a very short period of time, something that took years, even decades, to develop was wiped out. If the story ended there, sadness would certainly be the sentiment. But the story doesn’t end there. Within days, new growth sprouted from the forest floor. Plant life that is necessary to the ecosystem is able to grow in the absence of trees that had blocked the sun’s light and warm. In the midst of a few burnt out tree trunks, life had erupted everywhere. Into death and destruction, God breathes life.
Humbling to see that my Father does the same thing in His people that He does in creation. Essentially, our hearts are a wooded garden. In my garden, trees had grown so large that they suffocated the life out of me — the uniqueness and beauty of my garden was dead. My metaphorical trees were my unwillingness to submit to Him — my overwhelming desire to do things my way and have them done in my timing. The flowering plants on the ground were the aspects of me that He gave me to make me unique — but they were no match for the resources that were being stolen by the trees. For passersby, those trees blocked the view of the desolation of the garden floor — only weeds that needed no light remained. Basically, the trees were blocking the Son’s light and Spirit’s warmth from reaching my heart. I was dried out and overgrown; completely vulnerable to a lightning strike. When the perfect storm hit my life, lightning struck and wiped everything out of me mentally and emotionally.
Since then, the woman I resented for being the emotional equivalent of a garden gnome has become a constant stream of strength, vulnerability and love. My wife is breathtaking. The relationships that survived due to the strength of their roots were adequately pruned to allow for healthy growth. Fast-growing and rapidly-spreading new relationships have sprung up all around me, bringing out new colors in the garden of my heart. I even enjoy my job now. I’m tied into the living water; no longer am I dry. Life is abundant. Joy is abundant. Beauty is abundant.
During the fire, I only saw sadness in the death, destruction and brokenness. I was grieving a life that I thought I’d ruined. With time, I began to recognize that in the midst of destruction God was implementing a plan for my redemption and resurrection. Last Thanksgiving, I thought I had very little to be thankful for, given the mess I’d made of my life. This Thanksgiving, however, I’m thankful for the storm, for the lightning strike and for the destruction of the garden I’d poorly tended. I’m thankful for the new life I’ve been given and the beauty that it contains.