A strange sort of geography took my parents, my brother, and me from Glacier National Park in northern Montana back home by way of a one day drive through Yellowstone. It was 1989, the year after Yellowstone’s Summer of Fire. We’d watched it unfold on the evening news. Night after night reporters stood in front of walls of flame, columns of firefighters, or charred forest, delivering their opinion that fire was destroying our national treasure and predicting that Yellowstone as we knew it would be gone forever.
We were Yellowstone regulars. I had worked at the Old Faithful Inn during the summer before the fire. We wanted to see what had happened for ourselves.
So we added six hours to an already long drive and went to Yellowstone, not knowing what to expect. More than a third of the park’s 2.2 million acres had been burned to some degree. We traveled over roads that took us past familiar untouched forest and into foreign landscapes with blackened earth and lifeless standing trees.
Lewis Canyon was one of those places. There, as we neared the end of our day in the park, I saw a sign I’d never seen before. Planted amid the charred remains of what had once been a wall of trees, it towered over a Lilliputian forest of brilliant green lodgepole pine saplings. It said this: “Naturally reseeded by fire in 1988.”
That was not the doomsday outcome the media had spent the previous summer predicting.
Although the destructive force of fire was evidenced in every direction, the lush, living carpet at the foot of the dead pines highlighted the temporary nature of its power. There was life in that forest.
Hovering between the remnants of death and signs of new life, that sign pointed beyond the facts to the truth. Like the flames that consume old-growth forests, the fires that burn into our lives do good work. Simultaneously opening space, enriching the soil, and releasing seeds, they are, by design, a source of growth.
Matthew Henry, about what Jesus had to say about lilies and birds and the God who created them, wrote this: “There is a great deal of good to be learned from what we see every day, if we would but consider it.”
If we would but consider it.
That sign–the one that announced the vigorous resurgence of life–didn’t just change how I saw fire or even trials. It changed how I look at life outside. And that, slowly, is changing me.
The value of what we see every day is rarely as obvious as charred trees and newborn forest and a sign proclaiming victory. More often, it is subtle and, almost always, signless. Even so, or maybe more so, there is that “great deal of good to be learned.” I doubt I am alone in my desperate need for good as I learn to navigate the landscape of my life.
That’s why I pay attention to what I see when I’m walking in the woods. That’s why I ponder life outside. And that’s why I write about it. It does my faith good.
How about you? What everyday thing do you see that does your faith good?