So, if you were to walk on the beautiful path at the edge of the Broad River, you might come across this scene. The light gray trees rise above the verdant canopy like candles on a cake. But they do not tell a story of celebration. They tell a story of what had been destructive to the whole area years prior. A forest fire had raged through the acreage at the river’s edge and the flames had quickly spread through the trees. The river, wide and deep, had been a barrier to at least keep it from traveling further on. But the damage was done.
If you were to look closely at the landscape you’d see charred stumps and branches. The forest fire had consumed so many of the trees in its path. The trees that we see rising above the canopy are the remnants that have been left behind. They stand tall and barren and tell a story in much the same way that scars in our lives tell a story. Something occurred to change the course of events, and the consequences are seen and felt and heard and remain for years to come. But do you know what I love about this photo? In time, the gaps are filled in. New growth occurs. The normal course of events continue on. Life goes on. It just does. Even after a devastating fire.
So here’s the thing. We may not experience anything as traumatic as a devastating fire sweeping through our lives, but all of us have stories to tell of loss, of struggle, of things not going quite as we planned. And like the barren trees rising from the landscape, we may have daily visuals or reminders of the loss that we have gone through. Like scars, they tell a story. We all have them. We can hide them and be ashamed, or we can bare them as a thankful reminder to us and to others, that life goes on. We live. We learn. We try to make the most of what we’ve been given. I’m learning to not hide the scars, but to be thankful for the stories they tell. Our stories can encourage others who may be stuck in a charred landscape who feel no hope for the days to come. Sharing our stories, baring our scars to trusted few, can encourage people to press on and know there’s hope . There’s hope. And I see it on the Broad River Greenway Path.
And one day, when I walk the Broad River path, these barren trees, these remnants of the past, won’t be visible. The lush green vegetation and young trees will grow and fill in the barren spaces and rise above the naked trees left behind by the fire. People may forget and not have any clue there was ever a destructive fire. So it is with life. Beautiful are the stories of redemption, in landscapes, and in people. Though sometimes the sharing (baring) of them can make us feel like a naked tree in a sea of green, the hope of resilience can encourage others to press on, to hope, to focus on hope of moving on rather than what’s behind.
One more thing. I wonder… I wonder if the charred trees left behind become the very fertilizer which makes the woods thrive all the more? That the lifeless remnants of what was left behind after the fire actually enriched the soil which nourished the beautiful new growth? So it often is with the struggles in our lives. They so grow us up and enrich our lives in ways we never would have chosen. They make us appreciate the little things, and help us to get rid of the fluff and ‘get real’. They help us to mature in ways that can impact the lives of those around us. And they help us to see that maybe we are not as in control of things as we thought…..and make us aware that perhaps there is One who truly is in control. He adores us, created us, and calls us to a life filled with so much more than the fluff of looking ‘presentable’. There’s no place for shame over scars or remnants. Christ’s love burned that all up on the cross when He exchanged death for life. He calls us to freedom and life. Not rigidity and covering. He calls us to growth, not being stifled by trying to look a certain way. Bare the remnants. They tell a story of redemption.
So, me? As I look at the photo of the lifeless, gray trees in contrast to the canopy of green, I’m thankful for the remnants in my life that tell a story. People may or may not hear the story, but I pray that just as the trees charred by the Broad River Fire help nourish the growth of what remains and is now flourishing, that the scars in my life point to a Savior who redeems. He redeems and the remnants can help us remember and rejoice. Choosing to bare the remnants and bear testimony to the grace of God helps beauty rise up from the ashes….like vibrant trees rising up from a sea of charred wood.
“…but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3,4