When life burns, our greatest resource isn’t always what we think.
I planned a different post for today. But sometimes the current takes precedence over the planned. In the past few weeks, Colorado has faced one of the worst heat waves and droughts on record. By now, most of you are aware of the fall-out from this.
Wildfires. Horrific, consuming wildfires.
Every time we turn on the news, we hear about another breakout somewhere in our beloved state. Acres and acres of forestland, mountain landscapes, and, this week, hundreds of family homes. People in Fort Collins, Boulder and Colorado Springs lost everything but what they could fit in their car. And ministries like the Flying W Ranch lost even more in mere minutes: a 60-year history. Everything.
But in the midst of charred structures and grieving families, even as we brace for what is sure to be a long summer, we’re seeing the same beauty we witnessed within the rubble of 9-11:
Burn away our diversity and differences, and you’ll discover a people who truly care. When tragedy threatens all we love, we realize we all love each other more than we thought.
This week, I’ve seen this in the countless Facebook and Twitter posts asking for prayer and offering encouragement. At least a dozen of my friends offered homes and beds to displaced families and animals. I heard of several people who loaded their cars with Gatorade and water, taking them to key distribution points.
And, of course, I’d be remiss not to mention the countless firefighters and rescue workers (paid and volunteer) who have gone without sleep and food and family time to give their nameless neighbors the reassurance of those very same things.
We need each other. Not only in tragedy, but every ordinary day, before and after fires burn and buildings fall. We were made to do this life thing together. And when we do, we gain gifts far greater than our landscape or homes:
- Perspective: Buried in a struggle, we can’t see “the forest through the trees.” We see impossible details and horrific loss, and can’t fathom life beyond it. Surrounded by steadfast friends and shared experience, however, we gain perspective, a reminder that devastation will pass and hope will come. As one of my friends reminded yesterday, “God is bigger than even this.”
- Perseverance: Tragedy is intimidating, especially when facing it solo. But nothing gives me more courage or strength than the well-timed cheer of a friend: “You’ve got this! You can do it!” We need each other for the way we inspire endurance, to keep fighting for this beautiful life.
- Presence: Hardship comes in different forms. Divorce. Death. Illness. Bankruptcy. Job loss. And, yes, wildfires. Perhaps the greatest gift of all, as we face our formidable foes, is simply the steadfast presence of each other. Words aren’t needed. Presence is. Alone, we’re overwhelmed, defeated. Together, we’re strong, victorious, even in bad news.
If you’re in the middle of a fire, look for the faces of those who want to battle it with you. And if you’re in a place of calm for now, look for someone who isn’t. Have eyes to see the possibilities when their vision wanes. Be ready to offer a well-timed “You can do this!” when you notice fading strength. And, above all, make sure you stand with them, strong and unyielding, in the middle of their battle.
When all else is lost, we can give each other a place to call home.
How has community made a difference in some of the hardships of your life?