A Time to Let Burning Cities Burn 

We all have circumstances in our lives that are out of our control. There are others that we create.

My life has been like a city that I started building at a young age. It’s been a journey. For years, I was going to do it on my own, without help. I laid some of the foundations well and others poorly. There were some who rented apartments in my city, and others who had permanent homes there. There were drifters who passed through as quickly as they came.

Some of my buildings were mismatched and I didn’t like it. I tried to paint over  them so they would look nice like the ones in other cities. But when you put a fresh coat of paint over wounded and weakened wood, it can only look polished for a little while.

When I was 19, a visitor and I joined our land together. 9 months later, we made a tiny resident. And then, another. The city grew.

But the growth was built on swampland and graveyards. This tiny kingdom rested much of its weight on the unsteady soil of my own identity and the decaying corpses and bones of my childhood. Even as the buildings were painted and washed, as flower beds were planted, the foundations were sinking. And the stench from the flesh left on those bones seeped throughout the whole city. Then the earthquake happened, and everything collapsed. We all barely made it out. And we weren’t ok.

This brought a season of riots. I was a part of them. I wanted to pretend I was alive, and all I was doing was breathing in the dust from the rubble instead of cleaning up the mess. And my tiny residents suffered in a state of the debris of my choices.

Another visitor came, with his tiny residents. Thus began more building.

But instead of fresh ground, this new city was built on top of the rubble and bones before it. The houses were made with sticks and faulty beams. The foundations were cracked and faulty. The wires were crossed, and the buildings weren’t safe. Sometimes there were only tents for shelter. It was a war torn place, and one day the wires sparked and started a fire.

And ever since then, I’ve watched my city burn to the ground.

I’ve asked God where He was during all of the chaos and the rubble, the grief and the dirt. And I’m reminded that I wasn’t ready to build when I did. And I didn’t invite Him to build with me. I can be stubborn like that. But my God loves freedom and choice, and He loved me still, even when I hammered all my boards in wrong. He is with me even now, beside me, as I look with blurry and teary eyes through the ashes and the buildings still on fire, and the smoke clouds that still have yet to clear. But they will clear.

In the meantime, I’ve noticed this: God could have come and quenched the flames at any time. Instead, He is still. The fire needs to do its work. There has been enough layering of grief upon grief, enough wreckage piling upon itself. The destruction is actually beautiful and it’s necessary. When all has been reduced to ash, that’s the time to rebuild. That’s the time for the new and the strong.

So, I choose to surrender and let it burn to the ground. Because the one who I love the most holds my heart, and He makes beauty out of ashes.

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