“Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.”

– Arnold Glasow

Last summer I visited Glacier National Park in Montana with some close friends. The landscape was breathtaking. Along the way, we met a guide who talked to us about the impact of forest fires on the area and how the views of these fires have evolved.

The original thinking was that all fires were bad. Firefighters would rush to put them out as soon as possible. But over time, they realized they were making things worse.

Over the years, a forest becomes denser and denser with trees and brush. As the trees grow taller, they compete for resources like sunlight and water. As the density increases, the trees begin to choke each other out. The trees and brush begin to die. And they become the perfect tinder for wildfires.

Our guide pointed out a section of forest that hadn’t burned in hundreds of years. It was easy to see the pockets where the forest had become too dense and trees had died. A lightning strike could easily start a raging forest fire that would be hard to control.

Smaller, more manageable fires are actually preferred. This happens when the firefighters allow areas to burn. The fire helps keep the vegetation in check. There are enough dead plants to fuel the fire but not so many that it gets out of control.

It seems strange, but fires heal the forest. They burn areas that are too dense and thick to support life. Fire allows pinecones to burst open and release seeds that will become new trees. It permits sunlight through for new vegetation to grow. Flowers bloom and insects find new homes. Fire helps the forest regenerate.

All of this was apparent on a hike through an area that had burned a few years earlier. We could still see some of the charred trees. But we could also see the signs of new life. Signs of a forest that has been renewed by fire.

Today, firefighters assess what damage the fire might do before putting it out. If people, homes, or other structures are not in danger, they watch it closely, but let the fire burn.

They understand the restorative power of fire.

It takes the land bare. It allows for new growth to happen. It gets rid of the old and creates a path for the new. And it helps keep things from getting out of control in the future.

As you head into the fall, what has gotten out of control in your life? Where might things be too dense that you’ve lost sight of meaning or purpose?

Trying to hold onto everything can suck the life right out of you. What is it time to burn up so that something new can come in?

Maybe it’s fear or frustration.

Maybe it’s trying to fit yourself into societal standards that simply don’t work. Maybe it’s trying to make people happy who will never be content.

There is something new waiting to come in. Do you have the courage to lay the ground bare so it can?