On June 30th the number 19 became a symbol of tragedy, to the Grand Canyon state. It became our 9/11, in a way. Nineteen men, of the Granite Mountain Hot Shot crew, tragically lost their lives fighting a fire on Yarnell Hill.
This was the largest loss of fire fighters in America, in one event, since September 11, 2001.
On July 9th, over 6,000 family, friends, community members and fire fighters from around the country, gathered, inside and outside, an arena in Prescott Valley, Arizona to remember these courageous men. Numerous more of us, sat in our homes and watched the two and a half hour memorial service on television, in awe.
As a mother, I sobbed when a story was recounted of the last conversation one of the Hot Shot’s had with his mother, via text message. The courage of the fire fighter explaining to his mother, after she expressed her concern for the crew needing rest, that there “is a ranch down there and we need to save it”. In his final words to his mother he said, “I love you”.
What incredible courage and self-sacrifice. All of us have been witness to the courage of first responders throughout our lives. We have seen men and women run into danger, as so many are fleeing it; willing to pay the ultimate price, if necessary.
While watching the memorial service for these heroes, I witnessed courage and strength, in the men who spoke of their fallen brothers. This gallantry wasn’t only evident in their ability to speak in such an enormous and meaningful setting but to share their grief while publicly proclaiming their belief in God.
These public expressions of deep belief and confidence in the existence of God weren’t platitudes, which are sometimes shared or read in times such as these. They resounded in the rafters of the arena of true, deep understandings and reliance upon the God of all Creation, who would not only attend to their brokenness at the current time, but that the healing needed for a loss such as this, would only, truly, come through Him.
What was emblazoned in my mind, since that day, has been the unashamed courage these men showed to include God in such a truthful manner.
Today, we are so concerned with political correctness and not saying anything that might be perceived as offensive to others, that we have thrown away our freedom of expression for our beliefs.
Citizens of our great nation, which was birthed out of a love for God and a reverence for His sovereignty, are now relegated to downplaying, if not almost hiding, to some extreme, our beliefs to make room for those in our presence, who may not agree with the existence of God.
On that beautiful July day, in Prescott Valley, there was no hesitation to proclaim God exists. There was no hesitation for one of the speakers to openly share the commitment to God, made by the surviving member of the Granite Mountain Crew, on one of the group’s mountain assignments. Publicly stating this young man had given his life to Christ and that the relationship, which he began in the forest, with his Crew brothers, is what will sustain him in this time of grief and healing.
In a setting where mournful weeping was heard and seen, courage of a different kind was shown.
The courage and strength, not of a mythical creature such as a Phoenix, rising from the ashes, but of the beauty of Christ rising from the grave, from men who know what fear truly is and weren’t afraid to share their hearts, through their beliefs.
It’s easy to sit in a church on a Sunday and hear a minister espouse spiritual teachings. Yet, it is in our real life, when we need the courage to stand on our own and share the existence of God, when it truly matters.
We are allowing this freedom to slip away from our current generation and those to follow.
We are succumbing to the pressures of those who want to make all of America spiritually equal. Not respecting the evidence of one true God. In America striving to create a multi-cultural society, we are also growing a polytheistic society, which expects tolerance and respect from Christians, yet doesn’t respond in kind, with the same beliefs and attitudes from others.
In these men’s time of enormous grief and sorrow, their courage to not only walk through physical fires, is a great example for those of us who may struggle with “spiritual” fires in trying to be politically correct.
The Bible describes fire as something which refines. Many of us will never choose to purposely walk into a fire, as a fire fighter does each day. Yet we should let their example of publicly declaring their beliefs in God, be an example to those of us who steer away from the spiritual fires, we encounter in our life.
America, take courage through the fire.