My prayer is for a gospel flood, for grace that runs ahead and fills every low place, for a landscape washed new under the blessing and favour of God. Our nation may not deserve it, but it desperately needs it.
In recent days, Balrogs have stalked our desperate land …”
On January 9, 2020, those were the words I used to begin a reflection on the all-consuming power of God’s holiness. Australia was in the grip of the worst fire season in recent history, destruction and loss were a palpable reality, so I sat and wrote, When All That Remains Is Ash. Little did I know, even as I wrote the closing paragraph, that a pandemic would soon wash over the world, or that only a little over a year later, my home would face the second scourge of an Australian existence — flood.
“Even as I write this, the fires still burn. But one day soon, through the blackened earth, green shoots will spring up again. The stark forests will again echo with the song of birds. The hills will once again be clothed in splendour. The fire will have had its day, but the earth will continue to sing of the glory of its creator. God is a consuming fire, but the balm of his grace has given comfort. The cross stands scorched and smouldering with his wrath and now the Lamb that was slain has overcome our destruction. Though we may soon count everything else as loss, we look to him and discover that he is enough.”
Green shoots did appear, the hills robed themselves again in splendour, and the earth sang. The gentle river that winds itself past my sleepy little town continued its endless quest to empty itself into the sea. Life resumed. A semblance of peace settled into the valley. The fires, though not forgotten, were a distant ember of a memory.
Ironically, it was that which we desperately prayed for last January, that many are praying for again, albeit with a different emphasis. Last year we scoured the forecast looking for rain, our hope for an embattled nation at breaking point, and yet again we find ourselves scouring the forecast for rain, now a harbinger of doom for flooding communities. The gentle river that winds itself past my sleepy town is gentle no more. Hundreds of communities just like mine have been woken from their slumber, called into hurried action, fighting the rising tide of carnage that threatens home and breath. Like fire, water is also an unstoppable force of destruction that can sweep all before it in a sudden rushing torrent, or more subtly seep in and erode the foundation from under our feet.
Just as fire is used throughout Scripture as an image of judgement, but also blessing, water is as well.