In 1988, Yellowstone National Park faced it’s most devastating summer on record. A hot and dry climate left the grasses remaining from the moist spring set to burn like tinder at the first strike of lightning. And that’s exactly what happened as the inevitable summer storms rolled in. More than 50 wildfires (some of which were also started by humans) set the park ablaze. When it was all said and done, 793,000 of the park’s more than 2.2 million acres had been ravaged by fire. Amazingly now 26 years later, Yellowstone has made a tremendous comeback. The forest has regenerated at a rapid rate, surprising even the most optimistic scientists. The wildfires of 1988 had simply served as a reset to the forest’s lifecycle. And over the last quarter century, the forest has resiliently reclaimed the land that it’s called home since the dawn of creation.
In July of 2011 when I was born again in Christ I faced a similar phenomenon in my life. I had spent the first 28 years of my time on this earth giving root to a slew of unhealthy growth. And my forest was overrun with weeds and thick-rooted, lifeless sun grabbers. Its canopy had been long established by a stubborn foundation that had laid claim to the land many years earlier. There was no room on the forest floor for the introduction of new, healthy saplings. And even if there had been the new growth would have never seen the sun under the light sealed canopy above. My forest was weathered and it was slowly dying. It was time to reset the lifecycle so that new growth could be introduced.
Thankfully, as I surrendered my life to The Lord he reclaimed what was rightfully His and began transforming my forest immediately. When I was introduced to the truth, I began to recognize the weeds and the dusty old growth that had been choking the life out of the forest floor and forcing everything worthwhile to strain to exist under a canopy of darkness. Prior to that time, everything had appeared the same to me. I didn’t recognize a sapling as being good or bad, I just planted whatever I wished, never worrying about what it might do to the overall health of the forest. But with the assistance of God, I had a new vision for my ecosystem. I understood the gift of life, and I promised to take care of my forest and see to it that it did not simply survive, but that it thrived.
So I set fire to the weeds and dried up trunks that were creating an uninhabitable environment for healthy saplings to take root. And I let it burn. I said goodbye to destructive relationships, to vices that led me astray, to insecurities that kept me shut in, and to fears that held me hostage. I gave up my need to fit in and placed my focus on fulfilling my life’s purpose through Christ. I offered forgiveness to those who had hurt me in my past, and I pleaded for mercy for all of the wrongs that I had done to myself and to others over the years. And my forest burned as though it had been drenched in gasoline. A thick, heavy smoke filled the area around surrounding me as a reminder of my polluted past. But it wasn’t long until the flames diminished and the light reappeared in the sky above. And finally, I could breathe again, a new man with a blank canvas.
I can recall very vividly the incredible feeling that I had when I began planting seeds in my new forest. For the first time in my life, I truly felt alive. All of my burdens were gone. I had put everything that had hindered me into God’s hands, and He had thrown it all into the fire. And now, even with a seemingly devastated landscape surrounding me, I saw nothing but opportunity. I had no idea how to even begin to start restructuring my land, but The Lord provided me with the direction and the rich soil and seedlings to get going. And before I knew it, new roots were being established, and life was beginning again.
I wish that I could end my story here, but the honest truth is that recently I had to take the time to pull some weeds in my forest again. Thankfully, I don’t believe that this reclamation will require a full burn to restore order. The soil is still rich, however there was some unhealthy growth introduced, and so today I am clearing the land for some new saplings to thrive. Perhaps in another 25 years, with the proper care and attention I’ll look like the new Yellowstone.
If you haven’t had your fire, I encourage you to seek it. You may feel as though you’d be sacrificing a lot to the flames, but trust me you’ll be getting FAR more in return. And I think you’ll find great peace in what remains. It’s really all that you need.
May God Bless!