Lessons from a Wildfire, Part 2

I thought it would have changed more by now.  But I came to understand why it hadn’t, and my understanding took a worship walk in a whole new direction.

IMG_0535I was on a return hike in La Jolla Canyon as part of my eagerness to watch it recover from last Spring’s wildfire (you can see my first post about this canyon here).  I had hoped to find progress, growth, new greenery, and other indicators of recovery.  But sadly, not much had changed.  In fact, it looked almost exactly like it had before.

As I hiked the ash-covered trail, it dawned on me why the restoration had not yet taken hold.

It hasn’t rained yet.

We like to say that “time heals all wounds.”  But in the case of La Jolla Canyon, time alone is not enough.  Time plus rain, time plus refreshment, time plus water, will begin to restore this seaside canyon to its pre-fire beauty.

That shouldn’t have surprised me, because time alone has never been enough to truly heal my wounds.  The most significant wildfire in my life occurred in 2007, when we lost three close family members in the space of four months.  The losses piled one on top of the other, as we buried first my mother-in-law, then my brother, and finally my father.  It was a time of condensed pain like I had never felt before, and hope to never feel again.

Time passed, and the intensity of the grief diminished.  The “new normal” took over, and we moved forward.  But I slowly entered a hard place.  Call it depression, call it “the dark night of the soul,” call it what you will – I was functioning, but I wasn’t healthy, and I wasn’t healing.  Time alone was not enough.

I needed rain.

For me, that rain began two years ago.  I learned that good things happen to a heart that slows down long enough to search for the rest that Jesus promises to the “weary and heavy-laden” who come to Him (Matthew 11:28).  I learned the value of regular, long and uninterrupted time with the God who promises to be near to the broken-hearted (Ps. 34:18).  I accepted Christ’s invitation to “come away … to a secluded place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).

When I committed myself to the diligent pursuit of God’s gift of Sabbath rest, it began to rain.  The rain brought healing, and restored color, and granted perspective, and began to turn ashes into flowers.

Ashes still outnumber the flowers in La Jolla Canyon.  But when I reflected that day on what I had learned about rest and the value of refreshment, I added a new prayer to my worship walk.  In the midst of the moonscape of destruction and death, I whispered a simple four-word prayer: “Lord, rain on me.”

And He did.  For the next hour of hiking, I found myself in a moveable rain shower as I rested in what I know to be true of Him, reveled in His goodness, thanked Him for His compassion, leaned into His forgiveness, stood in awe of His holiness.  It was a uniquely refreshing time, especially in light of the stark contrast with my surroundings.

I start each of my Sabbath hikes by reciting Jeremiah 6:16, in which God commands Israel to walk in the ancient paths, where they will find rest for their souls.  I am now adding this prayer to the start of each Sabbath moment: “Lord, rain on me.”

I like the rain.

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About Sabbath Thoughts

My name is Mike Gaston. I am a former missionary, a Shepherding Pastor at Heights Church in Prescott, AZ, a happy husband, a spoiled father of two daughters, a proud grandfather, and a recently-convinced pursuer of the benefits of intentional, regular, contemplative, Christ-centered rest. This blog will allow me to share thoughts about Sabbath, as well as thoughts about God and the Christian life that come out of my restful Sabbath moments.
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17 Responses to Lessons from a Wildfire, Part 2

  1. Linda Hitzeroth says:

    Yes, we all need rain. I’m praying for some rain for Spencer an Melody.

  2. Deanna says:

    Yes, time with the Lord in prayer and absorbing His Word, and slowing down to do it, is so valuable.
    I have found that along with that, sharing my griefs and burdens with a select few brothers and sisters in Christ is definitely a rain shower for my soul. Having their support has given me renewed hope and perspective in this long journey.
    Thanks for your prayers for our family, Mike!

  3. Babette Lary says:

    This was such an amazing perspective. I too found myself in the same “dark night of the soul” after suffering 3 close family losses in just a few short months. It has taken more time than I thought was “necessary” to feel normal and to accept what the new normal would be. I still need the rain. At least now I can see that it is coming, however, not as quickly as I would like. That landscape is a good reminder of what my life would look like without Christ. Now I too will be asking “Lord, rain on me,” rain, lots of rain.

  4. Jessica says:

    MercyMe has a song called “Bring the Rain” that I sang a lot a couple of years ago. The chorus goes like this: “Bring me joy, bring me peace/Bring the chance to be free/Bring me anything that brings You glory/And I know there’ll be days/When this life brings me pain/But if that’s what it takes to praise You/Jesus, bring the rain.” I love the solid reminder that glorifying Him is the most important and that doing that in rain is so much more powerful and the growth He blesses us with after is so much more special and meaningful.

    I can’t wait to see you next month! 🙂

  5. Denise says:

    Another great word picture that touches my deep thoughts and causes me to stop and meditate. Thank you.

  6. Holly Rogers says:

    MIke – you always encourage me! What a blessing. Reminds me of the old hymn “Showers of Blessing” –

    There shall be showers of blessing/This is the promise of love/There shall be seasons refreshing,/Sent from the Savior above.
    Showers of blessing,/Showers of blessing we need:/Mercy-drops round us are falling,/But for the showers we plead.

    Sometimes we are just too hungry and thirsty to even realize that we need the rain to come down and renew us. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Todd Andrews says:

    Wow, MIke. This is very encouraging and helps me to remember to focus and depend on the only One that can bring peace in the midst of trouble!

  8. Pingback: Transformed, but Not Destroyed: Lessons from a Wildfire #3 | Sabbath Thoughts

  9. Charity says:

    Another very well worded treatise. Thank you for sharing. Hoping the rain comes soon!

  10. Pingback: Restored | Sabbath Thoughts

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