Defined by Hope

As I sit at my kitchen counter, my eyes keep going back and forth between the updates I am receiving on the fire that is happening in southern Colorado and the things in front of me that I need to do, including dishes that need to go in the dishwasher, dirty counters that need to be wiped, emails I need to write, and an organization to lead.

But I am struggling to focus.

The neighborhood where our land, the only piece of property that my husband and I own, is being burned to the ground as I write. I feel my breath disappear. Although I know fire fighters are working hard, the burn area grows bigger and bigger as the smell of thick smoke permeates my mind and cities across our state. 

Throughout the past twenty-four hours’ tears have freely fallen from my eyes. Life is not perfect. Yet, somewhere inside of me, I tell myself that I am supposed to know what to do and say in this moment, because I’m in school to be a mental health professional and I’m writing a book on different ways to embrace hope in the midst of life’s disappointments. But as flames larger than trees arise, I can honestly say that I am struggling to embrace the future. I am struggling to say, God even in the midst of this you are good. Instead, I have pounded my fists on the counter, I have yelled out in hurt and anger. I have responded with deep grief.

Earlier today, my husband, John and I held each other and just wept.

Dreams of us camping this summer and building a house amongst the tall pines are gone not just for this year, but the next year, the year after, and the year after that. Who knows how long it will take to rebuild the community or even if the community will be rebuilt. No longer is the area paradise on earth, rather after the flames die, embers will be all that is left behind with the charred pieces of decay and the deep dark burn scar that has become so common in Colorado.

I don’t know how to grasp the news surrounding what I am seeing—the devastation, despair, and heartache. I don’t want it to be true, but the haze in the air says otherwise. My heart hurts for us and for those we know who have lost everything, including their homes and livelihood. 

In the midst of the destruction taking place, even as the flames burn, we received an email from a man who owns several pieces of property close to ours. Writing to us and others called friends, he states: 

“This beautiful, wonderful, magical area will be changed. In some ways, it may be blessing. All the fallen trees will have gone. New trees can sprout. New growth will rise from the ashes. Trees will grow back. Animals will return. This is a special place and I believe it will continue to be, but no doubt it will be different.”

Through this email, I feel a new perspective rise inside of me. Hope in the midst of disappointment. The fire is still burning; the scars left behind both externally on the land and internally in each person’s heart are deep. People on Instagram are writing that they have lost the cabins where they grew up and asking others to pray. Random strangers on Facebook are sharing the memories they hold dear and externally expressing their grief, while the news shows individuals crying in complete shock. Yet, somewhere, somehow, and in someway there is hope. 

I just took a break from watching the news and watered the green plants and pretty flowers sitting in my living room. As I did, I found myself praying and turning my eyes to Christ. Although I prayed that not only rain will fall and that God would protect the firefighters battling this fire, I also prayed that hope will arise in my heart and in the hearts of other people who have been devastated by this fire, including the person who just wrote on Facebook that he lost everything in the Black Forest fire we had in Colorado in 2013 and now has lost his property in this fire. Why does it feel like some people never get a break? 

It was here, as I finished watering my plants with water droplets hoovering over the lush leaves, I silently find myself choosing hope. I have gotten through many hard things in the past and I can get through the pain of this one. Because it is true that in the midst of the fires, new trees can sprout, animals will return, and new growth can take place. The same thing is with each of us. In the midst of our personal fires, hurts, disappointments, pain, and scars, healing and redemption is possible. Ashes do not need to define us, we can take steps towards hope. 

— Jessa Dillow Crisp