For nearly fifteen years, my wife and I, our children, and now our grandchildren have spent a week camping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Wealthy people have summer homes. We have tent pads and cook stoves. But it has been a precious way for us to stay connected and build memories together. We could tell you of the night we almost died (or thought we would), or the time in desperation we ‘made’ a shower, or the time and place where our (now) son-in-law proposed to our daughter. This is OUR summer home, albeit one we share with nine million others each year.
So it was with particular sadness that we watched this week our summer home burn, or a part of it. Drought conditions and hurricane force winds fed the burning of over fifteen thousand acres of ‘our’ forest. In speaking of our own sorrow, I don’t want to diminish the agonizing human tragedy that has played out. Families have lost everything, children have lost their parents, parents their children. Our sorrow is minor by comparison. But we do feel a loss. We picture this beautiful canvas on which a portion of our family story has been written, scorched and torn, and it is hard. We feel a sense of loss.
But we know that there will come a time, perhaps in the not too distant future, when deep in the forest, obscure, far away from the TV cameras, unobserved and unnoticed something wonderful will happen. The crust of a burned over stump will crack slightly, and from that crack there will emerge a shaft of green. It will be small at first but then larger and reaching for the sun.
Genuine hope always begins that way.
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse. (Isaiah 11:1)
And with that, everything changes.
Yes, forest fire brings real grief. It lasts the rest of our lives. But it does remind us that as beautiful as this world is, it is not our home. Sweet friends of ours who lost their home in one of our fires said it was like the fire was God’s loving fingers sorting through the things they loved and saying, “You don’t need this, my child.” And I am so grateful for that all important hope!
Thanks, Chris. Yes, I had forgotten how ‘up close’ and personal fire like this is for you guys. I’m sure such things like that tend to focus us – things like cancer. Or mental illness. Come, Lord Jesus!
Amen and amen!
I didn’t realize that this is where you and your family vacationed each year. I’m sorry for the sadness it has caused you, all as well as the countless families that have suffered immense loss. It is painful to read each story.
I appreciate your portrayal of the new life as it emerges out of devastation and somehow it reminded me of the beauty of grace. I hope you find comfort in the beautiful memories made there.
Thank you for sharing a vision of hope for a better tomorrow.
Thanks. I’m glad you caught the beauty of grace!
It’s random moments like this that I make a connection and see its beauty.