Last year I walked in Armstrong Woods, a redwood forest in northern California. It is home to Colonel Armstrong, a giant tree estimated to be 1,400 years old. It’s a humbling experience to stand before a living tree that makes our nation's history seem infantile. How do these trees come to be?
A little further is a sign about redwood forest regeneration. It states:
"Redwood seeds cannot penetrate the thick layer of decomposing plant material that covers the forest floor. Crisis, such as a forest fire, allows the tiny seeds to reach the layer of mineral soil required for germination; overall the best way for redwoods to reproduce."
If things go on as normal, the seeds will never get below the duff to the soil. Redwoods only regenerate in crisis, by severe disruption.
Disruption is a popular word today. It is used to describe forces of change in economics or technology. I've been pondering Scripture and life through this word recently. What role does disruption play in the life of faith? What do you do when you experience it? Let me suggest five responses to the disruption you may experience.
Like a fire to a redwood forest, there are both positive and negative aspects to disruption in our lives. It is a pattern throughout the Bible:
As a forest fire can both destroy and regenerate, so God comes to kill and bring new life.
The prophets speak both desolation and consolation.
The Scriptures express both law and gospel.
The cross is a place of both wrath and mercy.
Jesus shows the glory of death and resurrection.
Sometimes we are in need of disruption. Sometimes we are in disruption.
If you are in need of disruption, may God bring a prophetic fury to shake you out of sinful and self-interested ways. Out of everything that is wicked, harmful, and unhealthy in your life. The crisis of fire is necessary.
If you are in disruption - wrecked, ravaged, and ruined - you need the tender mercy of God. You need to see that in disruption, God is planting the seeds of restoration. You need new growth out of the ashes.
Wherever you are in relation to a disruption, here are some ways to respond:
We are too quick to speak. Our impulse is to explain or reason our way out of a crisis. Instead, be silent and listen. You are in the presence of the overwhelming power of God. No self-justifying. No whining or complaining. Stand still before the Lord.
What is God doing in the disruption?
Out of the silence, ask this question. Push into the disruption, don’t avoid it. Often we ask, “Why God?” Here, you don’t ask “why,” but “what.” What, God, are you doing? What are you showing me? Teaching me? Correcting in me?
As the prophetic pattern goes, so disruption is a time to repent of anything that is not of God. You are shaken so that with clear eyes you may examine yourself. What sin is exposed by the light? What must I turn from?
Lord, what do you want for me?
We know what we want. We know our desires and dreams. But we’ve seen where that leads. Disruption humbles us to ask, “God, what do you want?” It’s like the Lord’s Prayer, “thy will be done.” Not mine. We say, "Lord, I want what you want."
If fire is necessary for new redwoods, then let the fire come. If disruption is necessary for God to make you new, then trust him in the refining furnace. Trust that God’s purpose is to make you new. His ultimate desire is not for harm, but for your good. He longs to forgive you. To restore you. To heal you.
If you doubt his intentions (which is easy to do in the middle of disruptive crisis), the cross is your guide. It is a place of severe disruption, of redemptive crisis. After looking at the cross, do you not trust that God can use a disruption for redemption?
Jesus is a disruptive man. By his death and resurrection, God disrupts the old order of sin and death.
Out of fire, he brings new growth.
Out of ruins, he builds new people.
God does his best work in the disruptions.