Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hope in the aftermath

“I will transform the valley of trouble into a gateway of hope” (Hosea 2:15)
Last Monday, a friend returned for the first time to the property where his sister and her partner died in the fires of February 7. It was a profound experience as he and his brothers sifted through the remains of their bush property. The landscape was blackened, the yard strewn with deformed metal and glass, made molten in the flames. The kitchen in which they spent their last moments was barely a shell. The utter devastation of home and surrounds was confronting, yet helped the family to realise that their destiny was written firm in the flames, and not in any folly.
The scorched landscape stands as a metaphor for the grief that crept its way into their hearts in the days following the fires as they awaited some news. Its black and life-deprived visage now reflects the despair and devastation of the heart: what good can be found in the wake of such events? Could we ever find joy and hope again?
As they walked the property and sifted the charred remains, they stumbled across two unexpected finds. In the otherwise blackened yard, fresh green leaves from a rhubarb plant had already sprouted - the first signs of new life already evident, fresh green against the black merely a week after the flames had passed. And, embedded in the walls of the kitchen, intact pieces of their sister’s art work: tiles she had painted and which were previously sealed by fire. They remained as a testament to a life lived: one reminder that her presence in life has not been obliterated.
Such is the shape of grief: an encompassing blackness where it is impossible to imagine any beauty, where all seems lost; broken by discoveries of a life that has left its continuing mark, and which springs forth with new prospects. The discovery that joy does return, that hope still springs forth, even in the midst of loss, is a story slowly emerging across households and communities throughout the state.
The prophet Hosea reminds us that God gives new hope - often born in the midst of trouble, not in spite of it: that beauty can emerge from devastation, not in spite of it. It is the gift of God which embraces the pain, while opening the future once again.

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