This past weekend I was blessed to be in Colorado for a few days. On Saturday, we were driving into Boulder to go on a hike when we saw a small plume of smoke rising from the foothills just west of where we were. By the time that we got to the trailhead about 30 minutes later, it had exploded into what you see in the photo below.
As we watched this while we hiked, it continued to grow and eventually grew to over 6000 acres just in a few hours. In just a few hours that fire destroyed 26 homes and has grown to nearly 10,000 acres as of today. The smoke enveloped the area and where we were it was literally raining ash and pieces of burnt tree bark.
I don’t know how that fire started but it was likely just a spark that lit afire a brutally dry landscape and was spread by winds that quite literally almost knocked us over at a few points on our hike. As I took this in, I remembered words from James 3:5-12 which say:
So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.James 3:5-12
What I thought about with what we saw and then from these words from James is about where we are right now in our country. Every day, I see people sniping at each other on social media – people who I know to be friends. I have seen people say some of the worst things to each other because of the tenor and rhetoric at this time. As James wrote, “my brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.” Right now, there’s a lot of “dry timber” – we’re tired from the challenges and stresses of this year and right now, it only takes a spark and that tiny spark erupts into something far bigger and affects so much and so many.
But let me tell you about Sunday morning. I woke up on Sunday and was going to go for a walk and opened the door and walked into something I did not expect and was not in the forecast. A cold, misty rain. It was just about 40 degrees and it had misted steadily overnight. As I felt those misty drops I literally spoke out loud, “thank you God.” It was absolutely needed. It slowed the fire (although sadly did not extinguish it) and it cleared the air. No longer did the air smell like burning wood but instead it had the fresh smell of newly fallen rain.
So, here’s the thing…which will I be? Which will you be? The spark that ignites, the wind that fans the flames, the misty drops that subdue, or the cool air that refreshes? That was what I really heard the Spirit speaking this past Sunday morning…That doesn’t mean we have to hide what we believe or how we feel but it changes how we respond. I believe that regardless of what way we are following, we have a calling to not be that which destroys but that which heals and restores.