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Break That Chain
by Bro. Mike Blue
1101 North Union Road
Dayton, Ohio 45417
This past week I hiked at its base and then stood on nearby Johnston's Ridge Lookout and tried to take in the panorama of the active volcano, Mt. St. Helens, missing its peak and a hunk out of its side. It was a bit of a surreal nostalgic moment for me. The initial contemporary eruption of Mt. St. Helens, the largest in U.S. history, was on May 18, 1980. On June 12, 1980, there was a subsequent eruption. On that date I was relatively nearby visiting my grandmother who lived on the Washington/Oregon border. She lived close enough that I witnessed a darkening daytime sky and falling ash/dust collecting on vehicles. As I now surveyed the scene and pondered the words of our tour guide, I thought of two things--the destructive power of sin and the restorative power of God's grace. On May 18, 1980, the eruption of Mt. St. Helens was equivalent to 1,600 times the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. In moments 1,300 feet of the mountain's peak was gone, blown off, leaving a crater up to 2 miles wide and ½ mile deep. Millions of trees (4 billion board feet of timber) were leveled up to 19 miles away. Then there followed the mudslides that filled in deep valleys and covered nearby land with up to 600 feet of mud and rock. Rivers disappeared. Lahars, floods of rushing water from the melted glacier ice that had covered the volcano's slope, ripped trees up from their roots and carved new channels. Fifty-seven humans, seven thousand large game animals, and millions of fish were killed. The destruction was so awfully thorough and terrain-changing that, when he surveyed the damage, then President Jimmy Carter said, "Someone said this area looked like a moonscape. But the moon looks more like a golf course compared to what's up there." Most of it happened in seconds. The rest happened in minutes or hours. Complete destruction. A lahar from a later eruption in only 9 hours carved a canyon 1/40 the size of the Grand Canyon which scientists have insisted was dug by the Colorado River over the span of millions of years. In 9 hours the lahar at Mt. St. Helens chiseled out the ravine revealing layers of sediment similar to the Grand Canyon. My thought was how quickly sin ruins and wrecks a person's life. It doesn't take years and years. Just moments. I have seen the destruction from just one summer's sinning in the life of a teen. Scientists are not just wrong when it comes to how long it took the Grand Canyon to form. They were also wrong about how long the restoration would take for Mt. St. Helen's and its vicinity. After surveying the total destruction of the land denuded of all plant life and its ground "toxic" from the chemical changes the volcano had made, scientists said that it would take 1,000 years for the land to recover. Yet, only 36 years later, even in the sections with no human-intervening tree planting, there is grass, flowers, trees, forests, and animals. I saw all this. I heard the birds, walked along new beaver dams, and observed elk feeding in the distant meadows. Not a 1,000 years later. Mere decades. I thought, Oh, how powerful and transforming is the restorative power of the grace of God. As did the volcano, sin always leaves indelible scars. Yet, grace restores. It brings life, beauty, and newness. I kept hearing the words, "He restoreth my soul." Mt. St. Helens is a witness both of the awful, rapid, destruction of sin and the amazing, thorough, accelerated restoration of the grace of God.