One of my favorite places to be—the mountains of northern New Mexico—is on fire. We journey there every year—to explore, to hike, to discover, to just be. It always brings us to an adventure. As I write this, the latest update on the fire now consuming the eastern edge of these mountains says over 36,000 acres have been burned and the fire is still only thirty percent contained. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
I’m not sure why I love this area of the country so much. All I know is that I get a sense of peace there I don’t get anywhere else. I hear God speak to me there and my soul always comes away refreshed.
On one of our annual summer trips God had me pondering the beauty of the forest. I never grow tired of looking at it, exploring it, experiencing it.
A Christmas tree farm is full of trees too. But it’s not the same. It is filled with the kinds of trees that inhabit the mountain forest. And in its own way, it has a sweet, nostalgic sort of beauty. But it is not the same.
The mountain forest is diverse. A variety of species and an infinite number of sizes and shapes within those species. It is the coming together, the mixing of this diversity, that draws my eye, holds my attention, overwhelms me with its magnificence—fills my heart with love for the Creator.
Whoa…it is the diversity of the forest that fills my heart with love for the Creator? Why then does the diversity of mankind not prompt a similar emotion?
As a society we spend countless hours and dollars striving for uniformity. A certain size, a certain shape, a certain hair color or style of dress. And when we lack the confidence that we have, or even can, achieve it, we lash out with words to destroy that which is different.
Scripture tells us that a great forest is set on fire by a small spark and the tongue is also a fire (James 3:5). With it we can bring destruction and desolation, tearing apart the inherent beauty instilled in the human race by the same One who created the forest to be breathtakingly beautiful in their diversity.
Is it possible that our uniqueness, our individuality, is meant to be viewed as a part of the whole of mankind? That we each have a special and distinct beauty that needs to be brought to and viewed in light of the spectacular whole.
A tapestry sewn with only one color of thread would be a pretty dull tapestry. A cake baked with ingredients that were all identical would just be… well… a bowl of baked flour.
The next time I visit the mountains in New Mexico, I will drive by places where the charred skeletons of the forest stand as a reminder of how little it takes to destroy something beautiful. One small spark. A malicious word. A careless comment. Perhaps Mordecai said it best when he told Esther she should not think that she alone would escape the coming destruction.
May I remember that I stand in the same forest I may be setting on fire with my words.
This is a fire that doesn’t need an investigation to determine its cause. We have an enemy who loves the smell of smoke and the feel of ashes. Choose not to be his matchstick.
And pray for rain.