Guest post by Jessa Dillow Crisp
Shortly after the Waldo Canyon fire ripped through Colorado Springs in 2012, I visited the burn zone and found myself avoiding the charred pieces of wood that were potent reminders of ravaging flames. No matter how hard I tried to get away from the blackness around me, my boots got sooty just as my ears filled with the sounds of crunching charcoal and my nose filled with the smell of burning grief.
Willing myself to look up at the landscape around me, my eyes rested on the destruction of what this fire left behind. Tears rolled down my face. Memories of the burning flames cascading down the mountain, as well as the rising panic I felt during the fire lurched through my heart.
Now, eight years later most of the homes in Colorado Springs have been rebuilt, yet the shadows of the dark burn scar still mar the foothills, leaving a gaping wound in the hearts of individuals who lost all. On top of that, adding insult to injury, this scar has become the first thing that visitors see as they enter the city before they lay their eyes on the majestic beauty of the snowcapped Pikes Peak. A reminder of the past and a memorial of the tears that refused to quench the burning of traumas experienced. I can relate.
For you see, as a survivor of human trafficking, embers of my exploitation have burned self-hate, fear, anger, anxiety, crushing heartbreak into my life. As the years’ pass, there have been times where I’ve found myself screaming, “God if you are real, why did you allow so much pain into my life? Why did you let me as a little girl be torn apart by sadistic horror? Could you explain why you would leave such dark results of fires I have experienced to smolder and burn me an innocent victim?” As I have grappled with the purpose behind these existential questions, I have also cried out to God with tears rolling down my face, “What do you have to teach me through these devastating scars that only remind me of all my losses, griefs, painful life circumstances, and the crushing weight of the world that I carry? The weight of the things I have survived! Where are you and do you really care?”
Not too long ago, as I was wrestling with these questions, John and I decided to go for a hike in the mountains. With each step, I found myself looking down at my feet and dusty Chacos trying to avoid rocks and roots sticking out of the ground. All of a sudden I smelt a sweet fragrance and lifted my head to an enchanting field of purple, yellow, and white wildflowers all around me. Words failed to flow in the stunning and magical majesty I found myself in. Yet, as my eyes began to adjust, I saw laced between the flowers the black ruins of the trees that once towered tall. I was standing in the burn scar: a shadow of darkness that had once stared down at people taunting them of its power.
I was absolutely shocked. This burn scar was no longer an eye sore. Rather, the grass off the trail was the most lush and thick grass I have seen in this high desert called my home. The wildflowers were breathtaking in their intricate beauty. As I gazed around, soaking in the pure allure that this moment brought, I felt God whispering to me that scars can represent the deaths that we have experienced and yet in the midst of these “deaths” scars can also be living representations of who He is and the work He has done in our lives. Scars do not need to define us, rather through us engaging with Jesus’ scars and letting his wounds touch our wounds, we can find healing and identity—we can be defined by hope!
Bio: Jessa Dillow Crisp, is an emerging mental health professional, nationally recognized speaker, and the Co-Founder of BridgeHope, an anti-trafficking non-profit within the Denver-metro area. When she is not working, Jessa enjoys hiking Colorado’s mountains with her husband John, finds delight in artistically expressing herself through photography, and is passionate about deeply connecting with people over freshly brewed coffee.