Columnist: “Ruins do not have to ruin us” • Jennifer Smith, Marriage & Family Therapist
Recently, I took a trip with some friends to Beaufort, South Carolina. It is a lovely place. I felt very connected to God when I stood by the ocean and considered the history. On our trip back, we stopped at the ruins of Old Sheldon Prince William’s Parish Church. It was built 1745-55 and was burned by the British in 1779. It was then rebuilt in 1826 and was burned again in 1865 by the Federal Army. It is an amazing place.
There are a few grave stones around the ruins and when you walk in the church there is a sense of warmth, like the people who worshiped there were faithful and strong. I wondered what caused them to build it back once, but not twice. When I researched this question I discovered that historians have found letters indicating the following: In a letter dated Feb. 3, 1866, Miton Leverett wrote that "Sheldon Church not burn't. Just torn up in the inside, but can be repaired." The inside of the church was apparently gutted to reuse materials to rebuild homes burnt by Sherman's army.
This all led me to think about what we do with the ruins or tragedies in our lives. We have options. We can rebuild, hoping the structure is a permanent one, but taking the risk of another heartache or loss. We cannot rebuild, and therefore leave permanent reminders of our history. Or we can take the ruins and create something different, maybe even something necessary for survival.
The choice is ours. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 16-18 says this:
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed....therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal.”
There is so much we do not understand in our lives. So many questions that start with the word, “Why?” God does not leave or forsake us as we travel through this life of woe. God wants to join us in the rebuilding and recreating of our lives. The result may be something we did not consider or even think possible. Ruins do not have to ruin us.
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Printed in the February 14, 2013 edition