For much of Australia, summer looked and smelled very different this year. The devastating bushfires, that charred nearly 20 million hectares of forest, blanketed several of our states in choking smoke for weeks.
Even though we were holidaying hours away from the main fires, our community endured many days where the atmosphere in our normally pristine ‘hamlet by the sea’ presented like a dystopia movie.
(Similar scenes on a Sydney beach)
We were almost acclimatised to living with irritated eyes, distorted vision and a heavy ache in our lungs, when welcome waters rained down to cleanse and heal. What a joy it was to again view the clear blue skies and breathe in gulps of pure freshness with deep satisfaction.
But evidence of the destruction also fell with the rain. The skies may have been clear, but for a few days afterwards, escaping the heat meant literally swimming in a mess of black soot that floated all over the surface of the water. Closer examination revealed distinct pieces of blackened leaves and bark. Our mighty gums had fallen… along with hundreds of properties, countless native animals and sadly, many precious human lives.
Chaotic. Dark. Divided. Dead.
(Seaspray January 2020)
Walking beside the waterline during that time was challenging too… like keeping company with an endless black snake… an ugly, unwanted intruder that slithered along the shore in both directions as far as the eye could see.
We walk and swim around in ‘ashes of suffering’ all throughout our lives. Life on the surface of this planet is messy and we can’t help but get ‘sad and sooty’ in the process of living… I sure do. Yes, on the surface things can look and smell very nasty. But is this ugliness the sum of reality? What is actually going on BE-neath the surface?
After decades of swimming in our Australian beaches, I have learned not to yield to my fears in the water, but to dive under the waves and push deep BE-neath the surface. Entering the water on those mirky days was unpleasant at first. It is not fun when pieces of death cling to you. But then I dove BE-neath and for precious moments experienced a cleansing, calm clarity that was impossible to find on the surface. No ash or soot… just a quiet space that was free from contamination.
With lungs burning, I was soon forced to rise and catch breath. Breaking back through the surface meant that I was again covered in the yucky blackness. Debris attached itself to me yet again. But there was still BE-neath… ahhh… I chose to return there again… and again…
Peaceful. Clean. Whole. Alive.
And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose. Romans 8:28 AMP
Yes! God is at work BE-neath the surface… He is always at work BE-neath even the most horrible appearances and odours. Not only is God always at work BE-neath the surface of our circumstances, BE-neath the surface is also where we can dive in and experience His presence and protection…
‘Please, God, show me your mercy! Open your grace-fountain for me, for you are my soul’s true shelter. I will hide beneath the shadow of your embrace, under the wings of your cherubim until this trouble has passed.’ Psalm 57:1TPT
BE-neath the surface there is a purposeful, Spirit-led current that flows through every fibre of creation, reaching out through all history. Yes, God is at work. He is always at work BE-neath the surface. It may be hard for us to understand now, but God has promised to lovingly move every minute detail of His creation into a state of perfection – renewed and precisely landing where it is all meant to settle – in and under the eternal authority of Jesus! (See Philippians 2 & Revelation 21.)
And as God is masterfully working it all out for good, for the most part His workings are hidden from us. But when we take a faith dive BE-neath, we ‘catch a glimpse’ and ‘get a scent’ of the beautiful things He is up to BE-neath our worldly worries; our national distresses; our community challenges and our family dynamics. I am so grateful that He is also actively ‘doing His stuff’ BE-neath the surface of our own burned and bruised hearts too!
So let us not be afraid to enter into the fray of the ‘sooty mess of life’ around us because we can always take a dip into the holy depths of God’s BE-neath! BE-neath is where His Spirit lives and works. BE-neath is where He invites us to live and move and have our being. (See Acts 17:28)
Please join us in praying for our ravaged nation… ‘Jesus, may wounded hearts and communities receive Your peace and healing touch – deep BE-neath the surface!’
To donate to the Australian bush fire appeal, please contact me directly for ideas. Thanks! Lyn