From the Ashes

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a blog written by Jennifer Lynn

I’ve always wanted to travel but as of yet, I’ve never had the chance to. There are so many places that are on my bucket list. Now if only travelling were free I’d be on the next plane bound for everywhere! I’m not much of a “beach bunny”, although I do enjoy being by the ocean. You just won’t catch me getting rays for hours on end. For starters, I don’t enjoy being burned to a crisp. Secondly, my people (Irish and German) don’t particularly tan well. We burn, peel and freckle. Thirdly, sun tanning might be cute and seem appealing in your teen years and 20’s but as time goes on you start to realize that all of that tanning you did back in the day was actually dehydrating you and now that you’re older your skin is starting to resemble a worn out leather hand bag. Not so cute. All of which is why I do enjoy being outside in the fresh air and with nature but I deliberately try to avoid too much sun on my skin if I can help it.  

I’m actually more a nature/history buff so my dream destinations don’t include palm trees and margaritas. They include ancient ruins and priceless artifacts. Walking through parts of history that leave you breathless and make you think. Visiting monuments and buildings that have stood the test of time that were built long before any modern technology was around to help them. It’s always so fascinating to me how certain things were built without cranes or bulldozers! The pyramids! The Coliseum! Like actually how in the world??

So, when I heard about the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris that was burning to the ground my heart sank. It was definitely something that was on my bucket list of places to visit. An 800 year old church that took decades to build. The saving grace from the whole situation is that they were able to salvage most of the building and artifacts. While the famous spire of the church collapsed, the main structure was still left standing. Immediately after the fire was put out, the leaders of France pledged to rebuild with millionaires collectively pledging to give $600 million dollars to help with the cause. I’ll say that again. In less than 24 hours, some of the RICHEST people in the world pledged to give $600 MILLION dollars to help rebuild The Notre-Dame Cathedral! When I read that I was, at first, utterly impressed at the unity and the sense of urgency. But that quickly turned into feeling utterly saddened at the fact that with all of the needs in the world today, where is this same unity and urgency? $600 Million is a lot of money that could help with what actually matters, other human beings. I think as a society we’ve gotten our priorities seriously mixed up. But that is another blog for another time. 

Out of everything that remained after the fire, there was the cross at the front of the church that remained un singed amidst the ashes. If that doesn’t preach something I don’t know what does! The structure remained and they will be able to rebuild over time because of it. Otherwise they would have had to start all over again from scratch. But the main parts or “the bones” of the cathedral remained in tact. That at least gives them something to work with. To use what’s left. 

That’s the thing about a fire. It burns up whatever it can. The trick is to put the fire out before there is any structural damage. Some things burn up easy, like paper, plastic etc. Other things like brick, stone and metal takes a lot more time and a lot more heat before it burns those to the ground. And even then, there will always be leftovers and piles of rubble because as powerful as fire is, there are just some things it can’t penetrate or destroy completely. 

Hard times work the same way. It will force you to reevaluate things. It’ll show you what you’re really made of. Whether you’re flimsy like a piece of paper that’ll just get burned up and fall apart in seconds or whether you’re made of something tougher like stone or metal. What you’re truly made of and what you’re rooted in will determine the damage and the aftermath. It will also determine what is left over and what you’re able to use to rebuild once the ashes cool. 

While I’ve gone through my own “fire” or storm in my own life, I’ve tried to latch onto and save as much as I possibly can. It’s like my life was gutted from the inside out and whatever could be shaken, was shaken. It’s forced me to live more simply and cut out anything unnecessary. It forced me to go through everything in my house and I had the urge on multiple occasions to throw out or donate bags full of stuff that I had been hanging on to. De cluttering is actually the best feeling! It forced me to cling even closer to my faith and cling more closely to the promises of God. Hanging onto and keeping my joy and my peace have become priorities for me during this season as well. I’ve also been so much more thankful for the ability to write and share my experiences through my blogs and music that I’ve written. It’s also become a life saver for me. All of these things have risen to the top of my list of priorities even more now. Everything else has been stripped away. And it’s been these very things that were left, that I was able to salvage, that has helped me to begin to rebuild.

Rebuilding is messy. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. Rebuilding after a fire or any kind of storm is always messy and dirty and it’s not going to look the same for everyone. Everyone expresses themselves differently. Everyone heals differently. And sometimes, not everyone will understand what you’ve been through or how you’ve chosen to heal and deal with things. And that’s okay. 

Over the last few years, my own spiritual life has been gutted out and rearranged so that the end result, I believe, will be more like Jesus and less like religion or other peoples opinions of it. The apostle Paul talks about our faith as a long distance race, not a sprint! Which means IT’S A PROCESS! Of which I’m still in the middle of (just like we all are) so how about we all just encourage each other onward along the way in our walk with Jesus. As long as we’re going in the right direction, keeping our eyes on the end goal, which is Jesus, every step forward is a victory! Even the tiny, wobbly steps. And the last time I checked, this whole faith walk was never intended to be a “cake walk.” And a faith that hasn’t been severely tested is really no faith at all! I honestly don’t trust people that say they love Jesus or have faith but have never actually had an intense experience that has tested that faith. The Bible says that faith without works is dead; meaning, we have to prove that we have the faith that we say we have. So, how can we even claim to have that faith if we’ve never had to fight for it and come out the other side with some battle scars to show for it?? 

The book of Job is a perfect example of this. Job had everything you could possible imagine going for him. And he loved God. And then one day, it was all gone. His family, wealth, his health, all of it was GONE! From that point on the entire book is Job whining, complaining, questioning, doubting, a bad attitude, being depressed..the list goes on and on. I mean, this guys’ experience and faith walk was ROUGH! If this guy wandered into church today, most people would probably turn their nose up at him! But you know what? God allowed him to fight his way through it. He permitted him to complain, to ask questions, to doubt, to wallow in his bad attitude. For a time. Until God said, “okay I’ve heard you, now it’s my turn.” At which point God pretty much put Job back in his place and reminded him who he really is. At the end of their conversation, God blesses and restores to Job everything that he had lost. And the best part was that his faith came out the other side too. Yes, a little beat up but now he knew who God was, and is, for himself rather than just regurgitating what other people thought or said. He had to fight for his faith. It got really messy and almost unrecognizable. But now it was his own. Built up from the ashes of what was left over.

When I talk about being messy, I’m speaking from personal experience that I go through ups and downs like everyone else. I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I’ve been face down in my prayer closet for the last 17 months. Because that would be a lie. Not to mention it would sound super pretentious. Although I have wept in prayer to God while lying in bed, doing the dishes, writing, and in other random moments throughout the day when things have become so overwhelming that the only thing to do is question (most of the time without any answers) and cry out to God for help. And you know what? He’s there. 

Everything that could easily catch fire is now burned up. Everything that I thought was important is now nothing but ashes. But just like pure gold is refined in the fire, so each of our lives are refined by our difficulties. If we let it. Do whatever you have to do to heal and get you and your faith to the other side. Don’t worry about other peoples opinions. This is your fight, not theirs. Take whatever is left and slowly start to rebuild. Move forward. One day at a time. And once it’s finished, it still won’t look exactly how it used to, that is true. But what you do have will make you that much more thankful because you know what you had to go through to get it. You will have an unshakeable faith that is your very own.