Of all the tough lessons God has been teaching me these past few months over managing relationships, impossible conversations, grief, and sorting through stuff, this one feels even harder. It is testing my patience, forcing me to be calm, presenting me with unanswerable questions, and presenting me with the ultimate question.
For almost a week now I have been pensively watching the Rim Fire in California. It started at 16,000 acres last weekend and is up to over 126,000 as of this morning. It has even made national news as it has reached into Yosemite National Park (the high country, not the valley where all the amazing waterfalls and granite masterpieces reside) and because Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is at risk which provides San Francisco with water and much of its power.
For most people it is a stop and take notice for a brief second but for me it is consuming, an obsession. The most recent mandatory evacuation area for this fire is within ½ mile of my precious refuge, my father’s house on the mountain at the lake. There is so much irony in all of this as we have been engaging in hard conversations about what to do with the house, how to manage dad’s stuff, and next steps, which may all be mute.
And, my concern is not just about our house, but for life-long family friends whose permanent residence is there, who have been living on pins and needles with cars packed and pointing out, watching, waiting, worrying and wondering if it will be stopped or consume their utopia.
I was supposed to be there this weekend with stepmom. We had plans. Right now we would be bustling around preparing for a group of friends to arrive for a special late afternoon gathering. Instead, I am at my computer, on the tablet, or parked in front of the TV watching, waiting, worrying and wondering what will happen. When I am not glued, I am cooking, baking or running around trying to stay distracted.
Daughter is really struggling with it all. As hard as it is for me to comprehend and wrap my mind around, it is that much harder for a child at seven. Her main concern beyond the house is for the animals, specifically “the deer, the baby deer, the raccoons, the squirrels and the bats.” Bats at the Beach is a great read for kids!
I am challenged as she mourns these creatures, the potential loss of her treasures in the house and questions why would God do this? How can anything good come from this? She gets angry and scared and sad and grief-filled, missing her grandpa. It is hard because I am mourning too, because I don’t understand and because I have no answers for her.
For as much as I say things to myself like “They will do all they can to protect the community for the sake of the people, the local economy and that they are using the airport (right across the way from our home) to fuel the aircraft so it will be ok.” or “it will be what it will be and life will go on,” fear still creeps into my mind. I tell myself that God has a plan and it will work together for good and I know this to be true, but it is hard to see and nearly impossible to explain to her.
We are facing that ultimate question, Are you willing to surrender to God and trust Him in all that is in front of you, even when it is hard to see the good in the midst? It is a question we all face daily, hourly, sometimes even in a moment. It is easy to say yes when things are certain. It is harder to say yes when there is uncertainty, when it all feels terrible.
There is beauty here in that daughter and I are working through the answer together as we pray, as we lean into God, put our faith in His word and talk about the many, many examples of God’s hand in our lives where we have tangibly seen His workmanship and miracles.
When we take the time to focus on these things, we are comforted in knowing that our friends are safe and we are safe. We are comforted in God’s timing, allowing stepmom to have been there Wednesday in time to retrieve some of our most treasured possessions. We can see him move when we slow down and look, when we are quiet and listen.
This lesson is not over. The fire is still burning, the battle is still raging and there is much still at risk. I am not speaking just about the actual fire, but the battle against our minds, our flesh and the enemy. To not allow ourselves to be overcome with fear and anxiety, but to stand firm in our faith and choose our faith, choose to see God in the moment, in the hour, in the day and in our lives. To live a life of courage and freedom in the midst of hardship and uncertainty.
Heavenly Father, thank you for always keeping your word. That you are with us and that when we seek you we will find you. I pray for those in the line of the fire, that you will protect them and those who are fighting this fire. I pray for those who do not know you to turn to you through this. And I pray for those of us who are battling our own fires of doubt, fear and insecurity that you would show your mercy, grace and love to us and we would be comforted. Amen.