My family of 9 recently embarked on a National Park excursion out West—through the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, & Glacier. Traveling with my family is a once in a lifetime experience. Bouncing along in a 15 passenger van after racing to miss Old Faithful by one minute, I wonder if I am in a reality TV series about crazy families and their foibles. Foibles we have, as well as fun.
The trip marked more for me than just sightseeing, hiking or adventuring. A number of members of my family would join me in saying that 2014 was a challenging year.
In my own life, I watched my plans and hopes catch fire, incinerating to the ground. At the beginning of 2015, I stood in a desolate, burned forest with no idea where to turn next and the Lord slowly led me out of the smoky haze.
Our family trip was a time of rejoicing and pooling of love; we had each other. Even though some of us are still not sure what the Lord is doing in our lives or how he is redeeming the time, hope has taken root and the trip commemorated our love and commitment to life together as a crazy, ‘foibling’ family.
While at Glacier National Park, we watched a forest fire catch on the other side of the mountain range, an epic unfolding as plumes of smoke billowed into a canopy of clouds. There was a moment of shock and devastation in my family as we stood paralyzed along the trail, eyeing the distant fire, wondering how many acres were already ablaze.
A park ranger passed us as we were watching the cloud column and my mother took the opportunity to quiz the ranger on the forest fires, their damage and their potential danger to us. We learned that there are around 8 fires during the course of the spring, summer and fall in Glacier National Park.
What was shocking to hear is that fires are actually critical to the ecosystem of life in park. I remembered signs in Yellowstone that read, “This forest, repopulated by forest fire.”
It had never occurred to me that fires could be a gift.
The lodgepole pine, uncommonly known as Pinus Contorta, is a fire dependent species.The bark of the lodgepole pine is very thin in order to minimize the tree’s defense against fires. Yes, I said minimize defense.
These pines have cones that are filled with hundreds of seeds necessary for forest repopulation, but the cones are tightly sealed and the only way for the cones to burst open and release new life is through fire.
Life by fire.
As my whole family stood on the side of trail watching the smoke in the distance, I couldn’t help connect the truth to my own life. During the forest fires of the last few years, when all of me seemed to be consumed and I was left with a charred forest of stubs, I didn’t know that new life was sprouting beneath my toes. But as the winter faded and rain came with the spring, life sprung from forgotten ground.
I thought it was death by fire, but really it was life. The old me burned up and found new, more redeemed life emerging into my skin.
I had to lose my life to save it.
I am human, uncommonly known as Homo Sapiens. I am a fire dependent species with seeds of life and growth in my heart that can only be revealed and released through fire.
The gift of fire.