Three sleeping giants watch over Antigua—Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango. These volcanos frame the city, providing a gorgeous outline to the sky. But when they awake, the destruction is a powerful sight to behold.
Antigua was once the capital city of Guatemala. In 1541, however, a terrible storm arrived. After days of rain, Agua’s volcanic crater collapsed, causing a disruption strong enough to flood the city. The destruction was so bad, the country relocated its capital to Guatemala City, unwilling to risk falling victim to the volcano a second time.
Volcano eruptions are not the end. When the dust settles and the waters still, hope remains. Tiny organisms enter first. Lichen takes root among the ash. Slowly, the green returns, bringing along the animals. Ecosystems are reworked and rewritten from the ground up.
Some people chose to remain in Antigua in 1541. They rebuilt the city, bit by bit, into the gem it is today. It takes courage to live through tragedy, and even more courage to build again and again.
Volcano eruptions are impossible to predict. They give little warning of their strength or severity. So often goes our human tragedies. We cannot anticipate every layoff or failing marriage or worldwide pandemic. In light of this risk, it can feel tempting to avoid vulnerable situations. To close ourselves off to new challenges or growth. But, in closing ourselves off to risk, we must also shut the door on love.
Jesus commands his disciples to go out into the world and build relationships (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus does not promise his disciples a life free of disruptions and eruptions. Sharing the gospel is difficult work. He knows there will be physical hardships and rejections. The Apostle Paul experienced shipwrecks, beatings, sleeplessness, starvation, natural disasters, and rejection (2 Corinthians 11).
So how do we maintain the courage to carry on? How do we seek the presence of God in the mountaintop view and in the ash-coated valley? How do we reconcile a God who created the rainforest and the lava that destroyed it? How do we rebuild the city, knowing it may flood again?
Jesus ends his Great Commission with a promise, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). As we experience all the joy and sorrow life has to offer, Christ remains. Christ is with us as we share the gospel. Christ is with us when we get the difficult diagnosis.
To love and live means to risk disaster, but it also leaves us open for joy. Locals still hike the slopes of Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango. The top of the volcanoes boast beautiful views of the countryside—a reminder of the resilience and reward of rebuilding.