If you have perused through my past postings, you may have a guess as to where this picture was taken. Yes, that's right... Hawaii. I was standing on a volcano to be exact. The very word volcano conjures up exotic images including palm trees and beautiful red-hot molten lava oozing out of the belly of the earth. In truth, for the most part the brilliant fiery displays seldom occur and the magical rivers of liquefied rock are content to move unseen beneath the surface of the earth. To be sure volcano's are majestic, however it can be slightly disappointing to realize that the landscape can be quite bleak and barren at first glance.
As a young girl, I posed for countless pictures in these bleak and barren places. The half-hearted smiles captured by the camera were partly caused by the boredom adolescents are often plagued with. The other reason was that it really is hard to smile when your lungs are filled with the stench of sulphuric gases. Yes, volcano's are bleak, barren, and sometimes stinky. Yet, despite the many offenses to my eyes and ears they are a witness to the fact that beautiful things grow in unlikely places.
I am many thousands of miles removed from the bleak, barren, and stinky places that I once survived. While survival is admirable, there comes a time when the tiny ferns growing in the bleak, barren, and stinky cracks of the earth simply want more. In time, and sometimes much time, new growth is destined to overtake the desolate.
My father owns land in Hawaii that for the present moment seems useless. A once vibrant and lush paradise the land is now surrounded by lava. It is possible that one day it will be completely taken over. Had my father sold our family inheritance several decades ago, he would have lined his pockets with an instant profit. Instead, he wanted to pass an inheritance to his children. His desires may seem silly as we are now paying taxes on land we could barely pay someone to take. For certain it would seem the land is useless.
I would contend that many areas of our lives mirror my fathers land. After all what good does it do me when I turn the cheek only to suffer yet another humiliating slap on my face? Where is the benefit in giving my heart for it only to be trampled on? What good does that do? I would imagine that there is One who has been storing up an inheritance: rivers of grace and great explosions of loving-kindness. Even spectacular lands of love but we miss it because we become discontent and impatient with what seems to be a bleak, barren and stinky wasteland of life.
A man named James once taught about endurance, perseverance, and trials. Indeed, as members of the human race, we will suffer at times. We will struggle. Yet, it was recorded in James 1:17 that "every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow." I dare you to search this truth out for yourself. Read the ancient words penned by James such as "blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those that love Him." Isn't it hard to love sometimes? Isn't it a strain to believe in someone with whom you disagree? Again, beautiful things grow in unlikely places.
I have a feeling that my father will never sell his land no matter how worthless I and the rest of the world may judge it to be. I am also convinced that the Father of lights will never sell our inheritance. Oh to be sure, that doesn't mean we are given a free license to live as we please. I offer this story as a witness to the fact that He believes in us. He believes in His promise just as my father believes one day his land will be restored for the blessings of generations still to come. Even if the encroaching lava completely covers his land, my father knows that one day a seed will take root in the fertile heart of the earth. Until then, may it never be that I curse the bleak, barren, and stinky wastelands of this earth and most especially my heart. With all my heart I promise you that God can renew the most hopeless circumstance and clean your deepest and dirtiest wounds. What seeds have been planted in your heart? Is it a question, a hope, a secret, a need, a desire? I dare you to trust in the goodness of the Lord, let him nurture you even in the bleak, barren, and stinky wastelands of life and I promise you will find beautiful things growing in the most unlikely places!