I stood and stared at the black marks on the otherwise polished white exterior wall of the inner courtyard. This building spoke of strength. After all, it is the Pentagon: the center of our nation's military operations both here at home and around the world. Thanks to a generous opportunity from a friend, I was able to tour this amazing place this past week and see it in action for myself. But at that moment, all I could think of was the significance behind those black marks. Charred marks from a fire that seared the date of 9/11 forever into the hearts of minds of our country. Standing in that wing of the building, this is all that remains of that dark day. The other walls have been rebuilt, and there is a memorial to the victims of the attack...but that is all - except for these marks. My friend tells me that these char marks could've been removed, but it was decided that they should remain as a reminder of what happened here.
Then I notice a striking and profound truth: there was a conscious choice not to remove the scars. For those involved in cleanup efforts, they felt that to wipe away the black was to erase from the future human memory the history of that sad day. But to leave it was to signify the story -to tell those who would come later that this building has seen it all...and survived. It still stands, rebuilt and re-born.
I feel a stirring in the soul...and I see it now: the fire of life has charred the walls of my heart and left me burned and broken for a time. The pain has roared through my seemingly tranquil life and changed me forever. And at times, as I tried to rebuild, I did consider wiping the marks away. Just forgetting it all...in an effort to move on. But I have come to realize that to erase the scars is to eradicate the story. It is to leave no evidence of how far I've come. No indication of where I've been. It is to erase God.
See, His hand is traced in the turbulent as well as in the tranquil. Both are part of the narrative He writes for me...and for you. And when we try to wash away the evidence of that narrative - painful though it may be - we fail to recognize that this is how we can remember how He has walked in that pain with us. And how He has brought us safely through. He always helps us rebuild. We are re-born out of the suffering we face thanks to the grace He gives us. But there are remnants of the fire. Reminders that life hasn't been perfect...but He has. Life hasn't always been fair...but He has been forever good. And through it all, we have never stopped being loved by Him.
So...my challenge to you and to myself today is: whatever your "fire marks" are, don't try to hide them. To attempt to wash them away - because they are part of you. They tell your story. And they point to a sovereign God who has carried you. Be thankful for the fire that has tested you - because His hand can be traced even through the pain.