(I wrote this at the height of the recent fires in Northern California)
As I write this the landscape outside my window looks like some sort of dystopian hellscape of apocalyptic red and grey. Ash is falling. Smoke is in our nostrils. The sun is a blood orange orb floating in a sooty sky. One can easily glance at it due to the haze and smoke. And yet, I don’t want to as it looks like the all-seeing eye of Sauron. I’m afraid it might look back. Yes, we live in Northern California and our world is on fire. How are you doing?
I hope it’s better in your world. Please pray for us. And I suppose one’s world could be on fire in other ways as well. It’s just that ours is literally on fire. People we know will most certainly lose their homes [thank God this didn’t happen]. Friends have been evacuated and displaced. On top of it all, we still have Covid and all the other ailments of our present moment.
What do we do when our world is on fire? We know what to do (I hope) when it’s a real fire, but what do we do with the metaphorical fires? Those are probably more difficult to escape. Although, many times we try to; we throw some clothes in a suitcase, jump in the car, and drive away. We never look back. Problem solved. I doubt it.
What if we learn we are the fire? What if we learn we take the fire with us? It’s possible we could be the ones burning everything down around us. We leave only to do it again somewhere else. Or, are we gasoline constantly ending up with those who carry the fire inside and the two are consistently blowing things up? A lot depends upon those around us too.
And of course, sometimes the fire just comes. It’s not our fault or another person’s, it just comes. It happens. Most of these fires in Northern California were caused by lightening. Think about how random lightning is. Plus, we rarely get thunder storms this time of year. We even use the phrase “struck by lightning,” to note how unlikely something is. This world seems to have an element of chaos running through it, where both good and bad, the beautiful and the ugly, are always each just a moment away. Depending. Depending on what? That’s a good question.
We could say our attitude or perspective, but if one is burying their child or watching their house burn down, I’m not sure we can be so, for want of a better word, shallow or glib. Insensitive. There is no way one can, with any self-awareness anyway, walk up to those people and smilingly say, “Look on the bright side…” Sometimes the world just burns and there are no words.
What we can do though, in those times, is stand silently next to those burning and burn with them. Let it burn. Sit with them until the whole damn thing is just completely burned down. And then, rising from the ashes, start moving the rubble with them. Start clearing the area to help them rebuild. Perhaps that is what can turn the moments into something good and beautiful. Maybe then the words will come.
And if we can come along before the fires are out of control and help people put them out, great. That can also turn the moments into something joyful. I do think perspective and attitude are critically important, but how they apply to each situation, context, and moment is what takes wisdom. God help us and Lord have mercy.
Wherever you are right now, I hope your world isn’t on fire. But someone’s probably is. Be there for that person. If your world is on fire, then I hope you have people around you who are ready to stand in that same fire with you. Treasure them. They will now bear, not the same scars, which is impossible, but scars. That is no small thing.
Peace and love to you.
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