The mountain was left scorched and exposed after a forest fire devastated the west side of Colorado Springs. At the time, it was the most destructive in Colorado history. Waldo Canyon and the surrounding area was once a plush green terrain of evergreens, scrub oak, and wildflowers.
In the course of a week, over 18,000 acres of it were brought to nothing. Just charred remnants of old tree trunks and back ash covered rocks. There are pictures taken just days after the fire, and it’s hard to tell if it’s the newly burnt mountain or the surface of the moon.
I live on the opposite side of town from the fire, but I see the mountain and scar everyday. Some days, depending on the weather and time of year, it looks more heartbreaking than others. Looking at the mountain from across town, even two years after the fire, it still looks so naked, ravaged, lifeless. Homes, neighborhoods and memories destroyed.
On a Tuesday morning after a long weekend away, I purposefully drove through the Waldo Canyon scar on my way back to town. As I drove, I was shocked to see so much new growth. Carpets of fragile green with delicate yellow and purple lupine. There was something intensely hopeful and painful about it.
Hopeful to see this once scarred land with shoots of new life. Painful because of what once had been.
Driving back down the mountain through the burn area, I tentatively pulled over. The fragility and power of the new growth were hard to reconcile. I got out, walked a bit. I sat down in the brave, young grass with my back to the remains of a scorched tree trunk. The courageous, defiant vegetation that snubbed its nose at death and poked its head toward the blazing Colorado sun, breathed new life into my heart.
The feeling of scorched earth and new life felt familiar.
After the landscape of one’s heart has been torched through abuse, neglect, rejection, and loss, one’s life often looks barren. Years later, from a distance, a life may look like there is no change, no hope.
There are those who say, “When is she going to get over this? It’s been years.” They look on with remote detachment and think, “The past is the past. He needs to just get on with his life.” These individuals keep a safe distance and can only see the remnants of past wreckage.
Those who are brave enough to venture in close, those who are willing to step right into the center of other’s story are the only ones who can see the real growth. They get the privilege of seeing courage, beauty, power and new life.
It’s such a powerful thing to stand with another in their burn area of grief and pain, and stay long enough to witness hope. Seasons change and progress is made. Pleasure springs forth and intense joy pours out.
But, we have to get close enough to the ugliness to be part of the beauty. We who stand at a judgmental distance making up stories about another’s journey forfeit the right to be part of such astonishing transformation.
How close are we willing to get to another’s deep ache? Are our hearts available to journey with them into their pain? Only then are we close enough to see the growth.
Venture in; you might be surprised at the remarkable hope you’ll find.