Beauty From Ashes

By John Dale

I learned how to build a campfire at a young age when I was in boy scouts. We used it to keep warm, to cook our meals, and as a gathering place to tell crazy stories or sing songs. Later in life, after my last overseas deployment with the military, I worked part time for my county’s fire and EMS departments while finishing up college. It was there that I gained a keen awareness of how destructive fire can be. 

It was fascinating to learn the basic concept of the “fire triangle” when I went through my county’s fire academy. There are three things that must be present in the correct mixture to start a fire: heat, fuel and oxygen. If the mix is right, a chemical reaction called combustion occurs, and now you’ve got a fire. And as long as it keeps getting those three elements, it will continue to burn. When the fire finally dies out, the result as most of us have seen, is ash. An object that starts out looking one way is burned and turns into something else. If it’s damaged enough by the fire, most times we aren’t even able to recognize it.

The book of Isaiah in the Bible has always interested me. He was a prophet that gave us a heads up about Jesus coming on the scene. Also, the way he spoke and interacted with the people around him was very similar to how Jesus did many years later. In fact, Jesus indicated during His time on earth that this passage also applied to him. “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:1-3).

For those of us that have experienced trauma, we can directly relate to what Isaiah and Jesus are saying in this passage. Some things from my childhood as well as service in the military and in my community left some deep wounds that needed healing. We sometimes get so far down in the valley that we not only can’t see a way out, but no longer recognize what was behind us because it was “damaged by fire.” Being set free from the things that are holding us back like loss of identity, PTSD symptoms, or addiction, is a welcome sight when it comes along.

For my wife and I, this is the “year of the Lord’s favor.” Through a long healing journey God has brought us out of that has spanned several years, we now have more joy and peace than we ever thought was possible. We received some very good news recently: a baby boy will be arriving on the scene in just a few months!  

You can’t see me but I’m tearing up while I’m writing this part. The end of the passage above really hit me, “…a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” Our son is a display for us and others that God can take something that was “damaged by fire” and create something wonderful from it. He has taken my ashes and traded them for something beautiful, which I’m convinced is redeeming my past. I’m not sure I have the appropriate words to express how grateful and undeserving I am of this gift. What I do know is that God has used REBOOT Recovery to make this possible for me and my wife. He can make beauty from your ashes too if you’ll let him.

John Dale is a former REBOOT course leader, military veteran and first responder

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