Silver in the Scars

By Catiana Nak Kheiyn

Every day, I drive right up to the burn zone left behind by the ravaging tongue of the Waldo Canyon fires of summer 2012. The sight of charred tree trunks against the dull brown earth have made my heart ache, remembering how terrifying those days were, how many lives were affected by such monstrous, unstoppable forces. Every day, my eyes have gazed upon that unchanging landscape, wondering how long it will be before God can bring it back to the way it was.

Then the frost came in late autumn. Lovely, glittering, misty frost. Crystals had formed on the barren, wounded trees like ice fairies clinging to flower stems. My breath caught in my throat when my mind bore witness to a sight such as I had never seen before. Truly, God had transformed what once expressed such sorrow and painful memories into a vision of magic.

The frost was gone before midday though, and everything returned to the way it was. How quickly we forget how God blesses us through our wounds. How quickly we replace the beauty He's shown us with the ugly realities we wrap around ourselves because at least the pain is familiar and knowable. God's magic is something we're terrified to believe in; maybe because if it's real, it can be lost.

Weeks and months passed, and I almost forgot about that morning when frost fairies inhabited the burn zone. Their sparkle had become nothing but a distant memory. Like the Israelites, we can never seem to remember that God delivers us every time (Psalms 106:13) and is fully capable of raising beauty from ashes.

Then, in late December, the snow came. A shining white blanket lay perfectly at the feet of the blackened tree trunks, leaving the branches to stand stark against the blinding sparkle. The leaves may not have come back, the grass may not have sprouted, but God had covered the burn with a balm of snowflakes. Once again, this vista was new—a transformed magnificence I'd never seen before.

Memories of the frost returned, but this time, I let it sink into my heart. This loveliness was a new creation on its own, to be enjoyed while it lasted, for it would not be long before the sun came out and melted the blanket into refreshment for the earth.

God doesn't always wait until absolute restoration is reached before He unveils His handiwork in us. Our wounds may not be fully healed before we're turned out into the world again. There may be scars, but there is still beauty in our woundedness—a fascination in tracing the path of raised skin, smooth and shiny after years have passed. There is still beauty in seeing that healing is taking place even while we're broken (Psalm 30:5).

Once damaged, we will never return to our original state, but would we want to go back after God has filled the cracks in our hearts with silver and gold? Those scars become a part of us, just as the burn zone will be a scar on our mountainside. One day, many years from now, the trees will be back. The grass will return. Birds will nest again in the place that blazed like Hell on earth once upon a time.

Some of God's most enchanting stories arise from the lives of people who have walked through the painful, burning darkness and have come out—blinking, broken, and bandaged—into the light. Darkness is not dark to God; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light to Him (Psalm 139:12). When we feel ruined, it is His pleasure to make us new (2 Corinthians 5:17; Philippians 2:13; James 1:2–3).

Even though the future looks cloudy and uncertain, or the present looks barren and burned, or the past is mottled with scars, our limited scope of vision can scarcely fathom the splendor that God sees. "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him" (Job 13:15). God is good and trustworthy—even when the devastation is overwhelming. He places meaning in every moment of our lives, even when we are unaware of that meaning (Isaiah 55:8).

God gives good things, and He can take them away, yet it is not for us to understand the whys of His process (Job 1:21; Proverbs 3:5-6). Job had no idea why the Enemy was allowed to wreak havoc on his family and land. But "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).

In the years to come, when I look to the hills, will I choose to see the barren, blackened forest or a revived landscape? When I drive past it now, should I long for the dream of what may come about in the future, or relish in the beauty provided through the process of renewal? "Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice" (Psalm 51:8).

Photo Credits, used with permission: Street View Panorama by Catiana Nak Kheiyn | Waldo Canyon Fire image by John Skiba | Snowy Mountainside by Eclectic Elegance

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Published 1-28-13