Prairie plants can survive fires since they have deep roots and grow from a point underground. A prescribed burn is a crucial component in prairie restoration. Burns are conducted early in restoration projects to prepare the land for planting. Prairies are burned at regular intervals to help keep them healthy.http://www.museum.state.il.us/muslink/prairie/htmls/pr_fire.html
Several nights ago, Neil and I met for our evening coffee chat. On most nights, we discuss our day, what occupies our minds, and how we can make our marriage even better – everything from light to heavy topics. The topic of clinging to what is familar consumed our conversation on this particular evening.
There is a song written by For King and Country called Burn the Ships. In this song, the musicians recount a personal experience when one of their wives struggled with addiction. She was prescribed nausea medication during her pregnancy. As the doctors increased her dosage throughout, she found herself unable to stop taking the pills. Her husband immediately flew home to be with her and help her through her rehabilitation.
There’s a history lesson presented in this song, as well. An explorer sailed with his crew to a new land. Upon arrival, the crew grew fearful of the unknown and, in spite of the cramped, dingy quarters, they wanted to remain aboard the ships. When the captain saw his anxious and frightened men unwilling to explore the new territory before them, he ordered the ships to be burned. There was no going back.
As Neil sipped his coffee and I my tea, this song was brought into our conversation. Several minutes ticked by as we stared at each other realizing how much the lyrics resounded in our lives.
This past year has been nothing short of difficult. Reaching the point of burn out from organized church outreaches and ministries by last Christmas, our year began with a cliff jump, or should say a cliff climb? A job change, then planning for a state-to-state relocation, cleaning peoples’ homes, a deadline to release my book, a cancer diagnosis and surgery for our youngest son, and self imposed pressure to visit every single one of my friends at least once before we left – not to mention Neil’s already planned trip to Montana during Judah’s cancer surgery one week before our moving date all took place within ten weeks.
By the middle of February, my chest felt tight with tension like an overly tightened guitar string. Many days I could literally feel my heart pounding in my chest and found it hard to breathe. My brain was exhausted with daily demands. It was all I could do to keep the schedule moving along. Friends tried to pitch in and help here and there as our moving date drew closer. That helped a little. I did whatever I could to feel life’s weight lift from my chest just a tiny bit in order to gulp air before sinking under the torrential current of reality again.
Over the course of those two and half months, Neil and I reached for everything we could in order to get through our parallel daily grind. In our striving to survive the stormy weather in our existence, we lost touch with each other. We both made choices to “protect” the other by not sharing things we knew might add stress to life’s pile of circumstances. He never shared his physical pain with me because he didn’t want me to worry. I never shared the emotional details of my inner struggles with our current circumstances because he already had enough on his plate. I didn’t want to be the one to add more. By the time we arrived in Virginia in mid-March, we were burnt out, sick, and exhausted. Although the year had just begun, we already had so much to process.
We’ll have been married eighteen years this year; we’ve always had a great marriage. But as we looked back over the first two months of this year, it felt like a space had grown between us. How had we lost touch with each other through the enormity of life events? It was as though one minute we were standing next to each other, and when I looked again, a narrow, but deep chasm separated us. The three-day journey from one state to the next extended the opportunity to begin filling in that chasm. Over the next several weeks after arriving, through every spare moment and every evening coffee chat, we reconnected our lives drawing closer than we were before we left. Closer than we’ve ever been. But what do we do with the pain that chasm created and left behind?
Although the chasm had been filled in, what to do with the remaining residue? To ignore it and press forward would be sheer stupidity. Ignoring it would mean not mending, not healing; just facing forward and moving on. So unwise for a healthy relationship. We wanted total and complete healing. Healing from miscommunication. Mending from misunderstanding. Restoration from trying to “protect” each other and realizing we were just keeping secrets causing division in our marriage. Freedom from who we were. Even if it was pretty good, we now know there is even better. Why settle for good when we can have best?
As Neil and I sat on our couch listening to this song, we realized how much our lives had already changed with this move. A picture came to Neil’s mind as we talked.
My father grew great grasslands after he retired from farming. He was growing a wildlife haven, a place where pheasants could multiply abundantly; a place where people would come to hunt
from all over the Midwest. In order to do that, he needed to make the perfect grassland habitat.
To restore prairie plant life to become fuller and healthier, you need to burn everything off the prairie. You see, the beauty of prairie grass is the roots run really deep, they grow from a point underground.
This should be what our faith looks like. Really deep roots, rooted in Jesus. Which means when God needs to burn off the top grass in our lives and clean out the weeds that have crept in, with those deep roots in Him, we are able to grow great vegetation after the burn. As Christians, over time, we tend to allow weeds start to take over the beautiful vegetation that we are supposed to have.
It would be too easy to cling to what was familiar in our marriage. But what had become familiar over the previous months was nothing more than toxic weeds. How does one forsake what is familiar? You burn it. And whatever grows back green and healthy, you know it was meant for more than just a season.