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  • Rebecca Cheeks

Out of the Ashes

October is here. It is undeniably Fall. The air smells different. Some mornings start with a dusting of frost on the grass and plants. And the leaves are putting on their glorious show of color.

When I consider the changing of the leaves, I always think about the beauty borne out of the end of their lifecycle. As the green drains from each leaf, in its place is a glowing yellow, or firey red, or deep wine color. Beauty in death.

That seems contradictory. How can there be beauty in death? How can there be goodness in hardship? I believe this is one of the greatest gifts and mercies God gives us.

I cannot say, nor would I ever presume that a “silver lining” can be extracted from every loss or hardship we endure. But it has been my experience that if we really look, if we really open ourselves to receiving, we can find healing, hope, and growth out of the ashes of our pain.

There are certain trees, namely the Lodgepole Pine, the Eucalyptus, and the Banksia, whose seeds do not germinate unless they have endured a fire. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, these trees have “serotinous cones or fruits that are completely sealed with resin. These cones/fruits can only open to release their seeds after the heat of a fire has physically melted the resin.”

How amazing! In these instances, there is only rebirth and growth through the death of the original tree. A literal example of rising up out of the ashes. And with the changing of fall leaves, it is in their dying process, that such flamboyant beauty is manifested.

God didn’t have to do that. God didn’t have to provide gifts of beauty and examples of rebirth and growth out of loss, hardship and death. But He did. Along with countless other examples of life lessons found in nature, I suspect that if you look hard enough and open your heart to God’s grace and mercy, you will find ways in which certain blessings would not have happened if not for the hardship you have endured.

Darryl and I consider this concept a lot. We have experienced much loss through his disease. This fall, I have noticed so many couples taking walks outdoors together. Especially on paths through the forest preserves in our area. I wish that Darryl and I could walk through nature hand in hand. But we can’t. At least not right now. I miss that.

But… through Darryl’s illness, we have been tested by fire. And out of that fire, has come growth that we would have never experienced otherwise. Personal growth. Relationship growth. Spiritual growth. We have asked ourselves, ‘Are we better people because of what we endure?’ I think so. By the grace of God, we are still here. Still able to experience the love of each other, of our families, of our friends.

Dayenu Ministries was sort of borne out of loss. When Darryl’s disease took his ability to speak, he had to give up preaching to the congregation of which he’d been the minister for over a decade. That was a hard loss. But out of that loss, out of a restlessness to continue to serve others, we founded Dayenu Ministries. Our motto of “blessed to serve” is coming to fruition in ways for which we are so excited and motivated and grateful.

I encourage you to look carefully at your hardships and your losses. Out of those ashes, may you find the renewal and redemption that I suspect lies therein.

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