Kneeling in Ashes

I bought the hooded jacket not because I needed it, but because it was only five dollars. It fits. It’s light and has a soft lining, perfect for my walks in Wisconsin spring. There is only one problem. It’s white. This morning I realized, white is not conducive to kneeling in a field of ashes.

When I came around the corner of the woods, I saw the prairie sprawled out before me in a black coat of soot. In a controlled burn, only a few days prior, fire had consumed all of last year’s old grasses and empty stalks. Even though the fire was no longer burning, its smell still hung in the air like an invisible curtain. From a distance, I could see thin lines of green paths winding through the entire scorched field. The new grass which had grown on the walkways had kept the fire at bay.

As I walked along those narrow trails, I looked closely at the burnt field. To my surprise I noticed small sprouts of new growth everywhere. With my camera in hand, I knelt in the ashes to get a closer look. I couldn’t get enough of taking in all of the new life springing up from the blackened earth. My white jacket was soon covered in dark residue.

I thought about my prayer-life. Do I kneel and ask God to reveal life to me in the midst my circumstances? How often do I kneel and look for what God is doing all around me? It’s easy for me to bring the obvious to God, all the things which seem too dark, too hard, too hopeless. Yet, He invites me to come and look closely, strain for a different perspective and trust Him. While kneeling and looking closely can be messy, it is always rewarding.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
 and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.”
Isaiah 43:2 (ESV)

“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.”
Isaiah 61:3

(Pictures and essay by Heidi Viars, 2021)



30 Comments »

  1. I think I am guilty of looking for flowers after a “fire” in my life. I need to be patient and praise God for the sprouts. He is always working and His process is beautiful. I just need to slow down and enjoy!

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  2. What an interesting perspective. I just prayed and asked God to show me new growth that maybe I can’t see. I’m not even sure what that means or what it could look like but your post got me to thinking maybe I’m overlooking things that God wants to see grow. Even when my ground feels stagnant, maybe there’s some newness underneath that needs to be nourished and watered. Thank you for this.

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    • Oh, Terri … I hope I made sense with this. I am pressed hard lately and often have to strain to look for the new growth within the circumstances around me. It feels more like sowing in the desert than reaping any good fruit … but then God showed me how much I had been growing by dying to self. I realized how much God had rearranged my perspective and heart toward Him … how much I had come to love Jesus as He is walking me through these days. God had produced a slow change in my own heart. I am praying for you today … for you to be able to see all the ways He is working in you and through you … despite ❤️ Jesus is near you, my sweet friend!

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  3. I’ve learned not to be too concerned with what I look like. Just about the time I think I’ve got it all together, I run into some ashes (or a grandchild with a cup of juice…). God has His ways of humbling us, and that grandchild is so much more important than that sweater. 😉

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  4. It’s been raining steadily here all day; the sun hasn’t peaked out once. BUT! This kind of weather is perfect for lighting a candle or two, sipping tea, and cozying up in what my FIL used to call “soft clothes.” What’s not to love?! I too am very fond of Isaiah 61:3. The garment of praise can be worn right over our armor!

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  5. I have always been amazed at how fast new growth comes up after a fire, and faster than if the old growth were left alone. You are good at seeing the ways God puts life principles through nature right in front of us Heidi. I do miss the earlier springs and later autumns of Wisconsin over Minnesota. It’s still bland here but will start changing by the weekend (I decided…ha)

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  6. Looking for new life in the ashes. Amen!

    “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.” Isaiah 61:3

    Thank you, Heidi. Great pictures and thoughts!

    Liked by 2 people

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