Fire and Faithfulness

“There is faithfulness at the heart of all things.” (David Steindl-Rast, Gratefulness, p. 103)

I sit in the shade counting my blessings. The soft music of a fountain makes harmony with the birds. Pansies and impatiens echo the song.  Things are different a few miles to the north.  Spectators line the shore of Horsetooth Reservoir viewing the flames of a wildfire that consumes 64 square miles of forest and meadow. Some people watch out of curiosity. Others watch and wonder if their baby’s first photos and their grandmother’s rocker have been reduced to ashes yet. One 62 year old woman died as the flames consumed her beloved cabin home. An old friend who lives close to the fire shared a quote from the statement the fire chief made to civilians, “… the fire burned green trees and beetle kill alike and blazed through open meadows. Everything is still waist-high in flames. The fire jumped the Poudre to the north, ran around Seamans Reservoir twice, and hit Missile Silo thrice. It crossed at Picnic rock and is headed for Bonner Peak. Soldier Canyon is burning. Bob Gann says that this fire will go on all summer.” I can hear her heart break, even over Facebook.



The uppermost branches of Lodgepole pine trees hold clusters of cones tightly sealed with resin. They remain there for years. Only forest fires produce the tremendous heat necessary to melt the resin and release new life buried in the cones. Wildfires are an essential part of healthy ecosystems in other ways too. They restore nutrients to the soil and make room for new growth of pioneer species. Faith whispers that it is always thus. The Phoenix cannot rise without the ashes.

I have an even more difficult time discerning faithfulness at the heart of other fires. In Syria common people die in flames as an iron-handed dictator violently consumes their meager hopes for freedom. Where is faithfulness in the heart of Syria?

I don’t know the answer. Faithfulness is beyond my understanding, invisible.

Ancient people believed truth was outside and beyond human understanding, an external reality, things on the earth reflected what was more real beyond. Right living meant aligning oneself with that reality. Modern people are smaller. We only believe in rational truth. For us there is no mystery that science could not eventually resolve. For us there is no larger truth, nothing at the center.

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for,” says Hebrews chapter 11 “the conviction of things not seen.” The rest of the chapter is full of allusions to the courageous lives of people who sacrificed everything to live in rhythm with an invisible truth and the hope of faithfulness even though there was scant evidence for it in the midst of their visible misery.

If I squint I can make out the faint outline of faithfulness but, it is too hazy to comfort someone whose eyes are stinging with airborne ashes of their beloved mountain oasis.

For me, the key is in the truth that faithfulness is not a concept, but a person. Truth is not something, but Someone. “Him who is called Faithful and True.” (Revelation 19:11) At the end of the story of this world he charges in riding a white horse. He has been here in every chapter, sometimes invisible to our eyes, blinded as we are, but walking with us in the midst of the flames nonetheless.

The opposite of faith is fear. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for. Fear is the dread of terrible things. Faith believes there is someone at the heart of things after all. Fear believes in random disasters, that there is no heart of things at all.

I hear a silent voice reverberating through the centuries of human miseries and joys. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10) It is the thunderous voice of Him who is called Faithful and True even in the midst of the fire.

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