Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to a wide range of individuals who serve in a variety of ways. That certainly includes those who fight forest fires. Sometimes people who serve are recognized only when there’s a tragedy.
Fighting a forest fire is a dangerous and physically difficult job. And yet divine Love, the presence of God’s caring nature, is right there with each individual who is standing up to what may seem to be overpowering forces of nature. Years ago when I served on a firefighting crew for the US Forest Service here in Boise, I found it invaluable to feel God was at my side as we were flown or trucked into isolated wilderness areas.
A forest fire can seem especially intimidating unless one has some sense of God’s omnipotence. In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, includes a description of mental elements that can be symbolized by a forest fire. She uses such words as “fear,” “hatred,” and “destruction.” And then she shifts to this phrase: “affliction purifying and elevating man” (p. 586). She draws these terms from what she glimpsed in her study of the Bible.
Standing up to fear and hatred is something we can all do through prayer, whether or not we are on the fire line. We don’t need to feel helpless. We can pray to see that God’s infinite love is adequate to keep His children embraced in divine care, even in those tragic times when firefighters are lost in the line of duty. Surely the Psalmist discerned the significance of acknowledging this embrace when he wrote: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me” (Psalms 139:7-10).
Our prayers can be a support to those who serve in this unique work. I can remember seeing a fire shift in a dramatic way as it appeared to be a growing threat. Then, suddenly, there was safety where it looked as though a lot of harm could have been done. I attribute that shift to all those who were praying.
In our own lives, which may seem far from fire lines, we can face down elements of fear and hatred. And that can make a difference where fires are raging. We can cherish those who suffer affliction and trust that divine Love continues to lift them closer to a unity with their Father-Mother God.
I feel a deep conviction that even those 19 in Arizona still have God right at their side, leading them forward.