Finding Beauty in Your Life’s Race

My friends and I rolled out of bunk beds early and headed for the start of the Shadow of the Giants trail race. The air was brisk. “Three, two, one, go!” the race director bellowed, his voice echoing through the forest. And we were off.

My lungs burned as we headed uphill through the grove of Sequoia trees at 5,000-feet elevation.

Inhale. Lift. Exhale. Lift. Inhale. Lift.

I tried to find the rhythm of my breath and feet to make it up that first five miles of hills. I couldn’t help noticing the landscape.

The trail through the Nelder Grove—near Yosemite National Park—looked strikingly different from the year before when I ran the same race. Fallen trees and blackened trunks provided a striking stark contrast against the backdrop of the blue sky.

A wildfire earlier in the year blazed its way through this forest. The cause of the fire was unknown, but it threatened communities and historic buildings.

When a fire rages through dry underbrush, it clears thick growth so that nourishing sunlight can reach the forest floor. This encourages the growth of native species. Where forest fires destroy, new life springs up.

A resilient tree that survives the fire can even experience a growth spurt.

As I ran, I noticed evidence of new growth. Green grass and leaves sprouted. Wildflowers dotted the trail. As I rounded one corner, angled light beamed through the blackened tree trunks.

Beauty rose from the ashes.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted…To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.” Isaiah 61:1-3

After my husband’s death, a fierce sense of hope has risen in my life. I still bear the scars of loss, but God uses these to open doors to encourage others.

Sometimes life is about breathing and lifting, moving forward one step at a time.

Our hearts are scarred, but we have found unexpected joy in the ashes.

*For deeper reflection, listen to Isaiah 61.