Fire and forgiveness

I have an image of a tree-covered mountain, rising above Cascade Locks on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. Weeks after I took this photo, the area was devastated by the Eagle Creek fire, which spread to 48,831 acres and is now 50 percent contained. On my way home from a friend’s wedding in Idaho last week, I drove past this scene. Everything has changed. The mountain – once covered in green – now has angry brown and orange splotches of fire-damaged forests. But the fire didn’t take everything. There are many surviving trees, and the gorge remains a place of intense and overwhelming beauty.

In this morning’s Fruit of the Vine, Flo Harvey writes of a time when someone lied about her “to a trusted friend and colleague.... The hurt and the strain destroyed my work relationships and ended a close friendship.” Flo left a job she loved. She was hurt and angry. “Forgiveness was long in coming.” 

Someone we know – playing with matches – gets a little too close to the tinder-dry parts of our lives, and we’re devastated.

Flo writes that she was devastated for a long time: “Holding on to something can be damaging.... Clinging to hurts, unmet expectations, and disappointments – revisiting them over and over again.” She found herself “unable to step into mercy, forgiveness, and restoration.”

This kind of response makes sense to us in the aftermath of a fire. Everything we’ve worked for is destroyed. Everything we love has been taken from us. But those tender, tinder-dry places in our lives, hardened by fire, can be softened by forgiveness. “I pray often,” Flo writes, “that I will learn to let go of offenses and forgive.”

Letting go of offenses lets us “hold on to God’s grace.” The psalmist writes: “We went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.”

Next spring, the Columbia River Gorge will be covered in green and bursting in blossoms. I’ll be taking pictures, trying to capture its intense and overwhelming beauty.

Eric Muhr