The Beautiful Ash
I’ve changed. I’m different. If you knew me in 2017, I may look similar on the outside but I am not the same person.
I hear many people say things like, “I really walked through the fire” But I have come to realize, the only way you know you walked through a fire is if the heat changes you. Things melt off of you and truth ignites inside of you. You are still the same person, but in many respects, you are unrecognizable. The fire doesn’t have to burn you, scorch you or harm you. But it does have to melt you, mold you and awake you.
I have never walked through a fire season where there hasn’t been pain, deep pain. But it’s the kind of pain that is producing a result. In my 21 years as a labor nurse in the delivery room, I would say to the families I was coaching, “This isn’t like the kind of pain that happens when you break your leg, this is GOOD PAIN.” Some looked at me like I was crazy, pain is pain. Good or bad… now where is my epidural?
In life’s trials, there is no epidural. And there is no fire-proof suit. Jesus said, “In this life you WILL have many troubles. But be brave! I have defeated the world.” John 16:33
Our community experienced a devastating fire this past summer. Hundreds of homes burned, lives lost. Dear friends of ours walked through deep sadness as they sifted through ashes that were once objects that held memories, stories, and hopes to be passed to future generations. Now gone. But time and time again, I witnessed these same people stand with a new resolve, a new hope and a new strength. They had ash on their face, but they were beautiful. They walked through a fire. They were changed.
In 2018, I experienced a sort of relational fire in my own life. I knew it was hard, devastating at times. But I didn’t know how it would affect me. I didn’t know if I would come through it as strong as my friends around me. Would it destroy me or mold me?
I only knew that as I look back and ponder that time, I carry some regret. I regret not saying what I knew I needed to say. I regret staying quiet when there were words that burned in my mouth. I didn’t want to offend. I didn’t want to rock the boat. I didn’t want to be wrong. So I cowered. I stayed quiet. Some regret words, I regretted silence.
That season passed. I mourned the loss of so many things. I didn’t know exactly how I had changed or even if. Did I have beautiful ash on my face, like my hero friends around me? Was I stronger? I believed God never wastes anything. Especially the pain we walk through.
Recently, I had a situation happen in which it would have been easy to fall into old “people pleasing” patterns. To appease and agree. To keep the peace. To stay silent. The temptation was real. Like a shiny red apple begging me to sink my teeth right in. But I stood strong. I didn’t waver. I spoke. I rocked the boat. I was brave. I was true to myself. I am not saying I was right. I am not saying that I was correct. I was just me. Authentic. Honest. Brave.
Since rocking the boat, I have learned what it means to sleep in the storm. Though there is a relational storm around me, I have peace. I don’t know how everything will end. But I do know that I will continue to stand strong. Pure heart, clean hands, radical love.
I can only control me, and that's enough of a challenge!
So to all my brothers and sisters out there that have struggled with feeling overly-responsible to “keep the peace.” Who feel stressed when others don’t agree with decisions or choices you make. I encourage you to dig down deep and find your direction. You don’t have to worry about being right or wrong. You are responsible for pure intentions and an honest heart. So stand up straight, and go boldly in the direction you feel in your gut. Talk to others that treasure your heart and will be honest with you in your weakness.
And above all else, seek God.
My life verse is Proverbs 3:4-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
And so when I glance in the mirror, I now see a woman with beautiful ash on her face from a fire that happened in her life in 2018. A woman who is not afraid to stand. To be authentic. To own her story. I know I will make mistakes, I may not always be right. But I will always be authentically me.
No more regrets.