The Phoenix bird is a mythological creature that would combust, turn into a pile of ash, and then from the ashes be reborn. For combustion to occur, heat, oxygen and fuel are required. For many of us, 2020 cranked up the heat and added fuel to already combustible situations. On some fronts, 2020 even felt like a pile of ashes. Oftentimes our lives can feel like combustion and a pile of ashes too.
Yet what I love about this idea of the Phoenix is that the combustion and the ashes are just the beginning. To some heat and fuel that leads to combustion followed by a pile of ash only appears as devastation and ruin. But for the Phoenix that devastation and ruin holds potential.
I am reminded of a post I shared earlier this year – White Knuckling It – about fear and stepping outside our comfort zone. God doesn’t allow us outside our comfort zone to scare us. God allows us to step outside our comfort zone so we can see our potential. So we can stretch and grow. So we can see – we can do all things, even hard things, through Christ who is our strength (Philippians 4:13).
I believe that is what this season holds for all of us too. We have been under pressure and stretched on all fronts to grow us. To help us realize we can do more, and we can rise better, stronger, and more beautiful.
As a professional, I am an architect by trade. That experience gives me eyes to see things differently than others. When I look at an empty plot of land or a rundown dilapidated building, I see the potential of what could be. The start of new construction excites me over what it may become.
We are the same way. We have so much potential in our lives. God wants us to trust him and step out into that potential. Even when we look and only see rubble and ruin in our lives, God sees potential.
One of my favorite Bible passages that so beautifully illustrates this point is Isaiah 61:1-4. It is a long passage, but stick with me here because it is so rich:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 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.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations .
Isn’t that beautiful? Jesus actually quoted the first two verses of this passage at the start of his ministry and declared himself the fulfillment of this passage (Luke 4:17-21).
Jesus came for transformation. To heal every heartache and every wound. To release every captive, no matter what binds them – literally or figuratively. To bring light where there was formerly darkness. To bring grace and favor where there was vengeance. To not just comfort those who mourn, but to turn their mourning into joy. To replace the lament of despair with the praise of deliverance. To make us mighty oaks of righteousness that display God’s splendor. And my favorites:
- to replace ashes with beauty
- to rebuild what was once seen as only devastation and ruin
…just like the Phoenix.
Today I pray we have the eyes and the faith to see our lives for not just what they are presently, but for what they will become. To see the hidden potential. May we walk in the freedom and confidence that God is using all things in our lives to transform us into the people he wants us to become. People who arise from the ashes like the Phoenix beautifully new and transformed.