347 homes destroyed. 32,000 people evacuated. 18,000 acres burned. 2 deaths. 10 missing. So far.
I’ve lived in Colorado Springs most of my life. We’ve had terrible snowstorms. Floods aren’t uncommon. There have even been tornados. But I’ve never watched the foothills of Colorado blazing like I did last Tuesday night.
Around three o’clock in the afternoon, I was driving from Denver down I-25 into Colorado Springs. The wildfire that began on Saturday afternoon appeared to be coming under the control of the fire fighters. They were beginning to get containment. No structures had been burned. Good things were happening.
City and county officials began their regular 4:00pm conference with smiles on their faces. They seemed relieved. And then, as they were sharing the good news, everything changed. 65MPH winds began blowing from the west, and all Hell broke loose. The officials were taken completely off guard. And a fire that had, up to that point, consumed around 1,500 acres and 0 structures, suddenly destroyed an additional 15,000 acres and 347 homes in the course of about 4 hours.
Life can be the same way.
We go through our days knowing that fires are burning. It could be troubles in our marriage; a child that seems to be distant; problems at work; hidden temptations. But we act like we’ve got these fires under control. Sure, there’s danger there – but we can handle it.
And then everything changes. The winds blow on the fire that we have convinced ourselves poses very little danger, and just like in Waldo Canyon, suddenly all Hell breaks loose. And while words can’t describe the type of physical damage that the Waldo Canyon Fire has done, the damage done by these personal fires in our lives is much more devastating. Houses can be rebuilt. Rebuilding lives is much more difficult.
So what do we do when these personal fires destroy our lives?
First, we must regroup and return to the fight. The firefighters in Colorado Springs were completely caught off guard, and were forced to retreat behind both their primary and secondary lines of defense. But they didn’t just quit. They regrouped and went back into the fire. We can’t give up. We must keep fighting.
Second, we can’t fight alone. We need others to come along side us when these fires break out in our lives. It amazes me how – with 32,000+ people being evacuated – only around 400 have taken refuge in shelters. The rest have been able to stay with friends and family in the community who have yet to be affected by the fire. The Red Cross and other relief agencies have actually had to turn away donations. The outpouring of help from the community has been overwhelming. We need people like that in our lives. People we can turn to for refuge.
Third, we have to remember that as bad as these fires in our lives appear, things may not be as horrible as they seem. While we’re retreating from these fires, simply hoping to survive, God may be performing a miracle. One example is seen in my church. Nearly forty families were evacuated during the chaos on Tuesday afternoon. Many of these families could see houses in their own neighborhoods burning as they fled. Several were informed that all of the houses on their own street were turned to ashes. But last night, every one of these families from my church found out that their homes were spared. In the case of my pastor, he was told specifically on Tuesday evening that his home was completely burned, only to find out that while the houses on both the right and left of his were destroyed, his home was untouched. In fact, he was told that even the daisies he had planted in the front garden were unharmed. We never know what type of miracle can come out of the fire.
Finally, it takes time to recover. Officials have predicted that the Waldo Canyon Fire won’t become completely contained until sometime in late July. It will be years before the houses and businesses destroyed will be completely rebuilt. The damage is done. And just like this, rebuilding our lives will take time. But God is gracious. And while the road ahead won’t be easy, with humility and the grace of God, we can see restoration. But that restoration starts with putting the fire out. Don’t give up.
Get back in there and fight that fire.