The mythological phoenix offers timeless lessons of rebirth and renewal. At the end of its life, the colorful bird is said to build a nest and set itself on fire, only to be born anew from the ashes.
To some extent, disaster zones can also be places of renewal that rise from the ashes. One example of such renewal in the United States is the rebuilding of parts of New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. CEO for Global Green, Matt Petersen, saw the "silver – or green – lining in Katrina’s catastrophic wake" ("A new day for New Orleans," The Christian Science Monitor, Nov. 1).
When faced with the possibly bleak reality that this once charming city might fall into disrepair, Mr. Petersen realized he could bring his own talent and passion for green building to bear on problems the city faced. Not only is he rebuilding, but he is innovating to make green design more affordable – constructing the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) "platinum certified" neighborhood, thereby setting a standard.
How many times are we faced with a challenging task, a dead-end day, or a quagmire of personal or global problems? Maybe we find ourselves saying, "It would be enough to make it through – much less do something remarkable."
But we can be like Noah in the Bible story from Genesis. While the ark he built was still sheltering Noah, his family, and the animals, Noah sent out a dove to find evidence of dry land, anticipating the end of the flood (see Gen. 8:8–12). In our own lives, we can, in a sense, keep sending out a "dove" of expectation, knowing that Truth is not only restoring but improving us. The Bible promises, "Behold, I make all things new" (Rev. 21:5). Noah’s love for God helped him restore his family and the animals to safety.
Because God is bolstering our efforts at revitalization, better practices are emerging. What may have once seemed like desperate times can become opportunities for promise and innovation.
Mary Baker Eddy’s life was a remarkable example of rising from the ashes of hopelessness and finding ways to advance. In her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," she boldly stated: "Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea. Gladness to leave the false landmarks and joy to see them disappear, – this disposition helps to precipitate the ultimate harmony" (pp. 323–324).
In quiet simplicity, the child heart is glad to relinquish the old outgrown ways of living and delights in the practicality of what is new. Noah’s dove brought innocence and purity to an otherwise Armageddon-type scene. As prayer has shown to so many people, even in the midst of adversity, we can have the courage to seek God’s care and find evidence of His presence strengthening us. Such searching prayer removes the sting of destruction, and life stabilizes with the indestructible qualities of virtue and strength. Even more, we find joy. In place of loss, redirection and the promise of new ideas is born.
During a recent architectural tour of downtown Chicago, this lesson crystallized for me. "Fire, fire, fire!" was the refrain of a children’s song that recounted the sad events of October 1871. Burning for two days, killing hundreds, and destroying the city, the Great Chicago Fire left significant ashes. Yet this disaster became the forum and the fertile ground for new design ideas. What once was viewed as a disaster became the canvas for great minds to fulfill innovative, successful architectural and urban planning initiatives.
When disasters strike or challenges come into our own lives, we can humbly turn to God to see what to do. Adversity invites transformation and renewal. We can send out the dove of hope and call on our honest prayers, invigorating efforts, and childlike joy to do more than see a cloud’s silver lining. We can look for and find true promise, as mentioned in a poem by Mary Baker Eddy titled "Love." One stanza reads:
Through God, who gave that word of might
Which swelled creation’s lay:
"Let there be light, and there was light."
What chased the clouds away?
’Twas Love whose finger traced aloud
A bow of promise on the cloud.