On Sunday, in the middle of a blue-sky day in Kodiak the mountains almost disappeared.
It was Ash. Volcanic ash.
The sun still worked to light the sky, but it was weary in all that ash.
Planes could not fly for fear of damaging the engines. No one in Alaska can forget the Alaska jet in 1989 that plunged 10,000 feet after sucking up particulates. By God's grace alone, the engines were restarted just before All was Lost, and all survived. The plane sustained 80 million in damage.
And here is why this is about marriage. And other family eruptions that fill our own skies with ash---This ash is not fresh. This ash is 100 years old.
There are more than 130 volcanoes in Alaska, but less than 20 are active. (Which is plenty. They cause more-than-enough havoc!) This ash came from Novarupta, a volcano that erupted in 1912. It was a massive eruption, the largest by volume in the 20th century, 10 times more powerful than Mt. St. Helens, spewing ash 100,000 feet into the air, drifting as far away as North Africa. The ash swallowed Kodiak Island, burying it in deep drifts, snuffing out the sun for three entire days. And afterwards . . .
The ash covered the floor of Katmai Valley to a record depth of 700 feet. Much of it is still there.
(Rivers through canyons of pure ash.)
Whenever it blows hard NW, as it was still doing the next day (gusting to 50 mph out there), we are breathing tiny shards of silica, tiny pieces of glass. And the beauty around us is swallowed up.
This feels personal to me. The volcano is in our neighborhood, just 60 miles from our fish camp island. And I cannot help but think of marriage, of our children, of our parents. We've all survived "eruptions" of volcanic proportions. We've seen the lava burning a path to our feet. We've seen the ash fall bury our house, the neighborhood. . . Then time passes, and we think we're okay. The burns are healed, the glass in our lungs dissolves. We think we've swept the rest away, all that ash around our feet . .. buried it in the garden, in our journal, in the attic with our outdated coats.
Then a sharp wind from just the right direction rises, and the ash we thought gone whips into the air, and we're choking again. . . We look for the volcano, but it's not there. Nothing has happened but a little wind. Then we remember---oh yes, that ash. Again?
How do we stop this? How do we end the bitter choking on distant memories? We feel SO powerless against these forces: earthquake, volcano, whirling winds.
But we're not. We're really not. Listen to what's been given to you.
"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened
so you may know the hope to which he has called you,
the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,
and his incomparably great power for us who believe."
What IS this incomparably great POWER for us who believe?
"That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead . . . "
In a few weeks, my husband and I will celebrate 37 years together. One thing I know: the power God used to raise Christ from the dead---is given to us. Now. And it's real. I know how weak we feel. I know how powerless I have felt so many times in my life. But I am not. You are not.
The power we're given is mightier than any volcano. It can blow the ash away for good. It can tamp the acid dust with the rain of compassion and forgiveness. It's the kind of power that births a baby, that keeps living "I do" even when you feel like "you don't," that keeps giving when others keep taking, that stays "until death do you part" . . . I mean the kind of power that reaches a hand across a table, across the bed, across a burnt-up field to say, "I love you, still. And always"
We are not always good at this, but we cannot forget what God has spent for us so that we can.
The mountains were back. The colors bright. The air clean.
This is the power we've been given, all of us:
"I love you still. And always."
I pray you KNOW the power of God in your life this week, in all the hard ashy places!!