Friday, December 12, 2014

Glorious Ruins

Glorious Ruins.  The words capture me.  They inspire me.  They give me hope. 

In 586 b.c. the city of Jerusalem was totally destroyed by Babylon and all of God's people were exiled.  They were taken captive, tortured, and killed.  In Lamentations 3, Jeremiah writes, "We are filled with fear, for we are trapped, desolate, and ruined."  

Maybe it's your deteriorating health, or your struggling marriage, a broken relationship, your unstable emotions, a stronghold that won't let you go free, or deep hurts that never seem to heal.  Or maybe it's your weaknesses, insecurities, failures, or shattered dreams.  Whatever it is, you stare at your ruins and all hope seems lost.  Darkness surrounds you.  Fear grips your heart, you are trapped, desolate, ruined.
Glorious ruins?  
Is that even possible?
Ruins speak of desolation, destruction, wreckage, or decay.  The word itself implies utter hopelessness.  If something is ruined, it is beyond repair, maybe even unrecognizable.
But the word 'Glorious' seems to be the exact opposite. It means magnificent, grandeur, wonderful, spectacular, celebrated and honored.
Is it possible to look at a hopeless, ruined situation in our own lives and then, with eyes of faith, believe that one day God would make it glorious, a display of His splendor?  
With God nothing is impossible.
Through prophets like Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah, God continually spoke hope and restoration to His people.  He promised them that one day, the ruins of Jerusalem would be rebuilt.  "When I bring you home again from your captivity and restore your fortunes, Jerusalem will be rebuilt on her ruins... Their will be joy and songs of thanksgiving..."   Jeremiah 30:18-19 
"They will rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities long ago destroyed.  They will revive them, though they have been empty for many generations."  Isaiah 61:4
And through Haggai, God even said, "The future glory of this Temple will be greater than its past glory". Haggai 2:6
Greater glory. The rebuilt, restored temple, built on top of the ruins, would have greater glory than its past glory.  Glorious ruins.
Only God can take ruins and make them into something glorious.  He says, "My power is made perfect in your weakness."
He reaches down into our mess, our desolation, the very places that we have lost hope, where our brokenness feels irreparable, or our sins and struggles weigh us down.  And right there on top of our ruins, He begins to rebuild us, restoring us, redeeming us, and making us more glorious than we ever were before.  
Glorious ruins speak of resurrections.  Lazarus laid in the tomb for four days; his body cold, foul, and rotting.  When Jesus finally showed up, He said, "Didn't I tell you that you will see God's glory if you believe?"   You will see His glory if you believe.  It was right there with the ruins of a dead body, that Jesus showed them God's glory. Jesus took death and gave life. Mourning turned to joy. Ruins made glorious.  
Without the ruins, would they have seen His glory?
The ultimate resurrection was Jesus Himself.  But without His death, we wouldn't have seen God's glory and power in defeating sin and death on our behalf.  It was in Jesus' brokenness that God made us whole.  In His death and resurrection, we were given life.  It was right there in the ruins of Jesus, when all hope seemed lost and the darkness seemed to have won, that God showed us His glory. 
Death always precedes resurrection.
"He had to die before anything was resurrected.  Mourning precedes mornings; death comes before the dream.  We long for the fullness of life, the freedom, the glory, and the joy.  But are we willing to embrace the death that must come first?" (Emily P. Freeman, A Million Little Ways)
A seed dies in the dark and then miraculously it comes alive, bursting through the darkness, into the light, into new life. But what if a seed refused to die, refused to be swallowed into the dark and trust that the light from heaven could reach it even down there.  It's there in the darkness, as the seed waits, broken beyond repair, that redemption and resurrection comes.
Would a seed become glorious without death first?
Allowing yourself to die is the ultimate trust in the One that loves you enough to resurrect you.  Surrender is victory.
Maybe we don't see His glory displayed without surrendering and embracing the ruins of our own lives first.  Maybe it's the very things that threaten to destroy us that God uses to display His greatest glory and power in our lives.  Maybe we don't have to be afraid of our darkness, our desperation, or our ruins.  Because maybe our ruins aren't the end of our story, but just the beginning. 
Maybe they're just the death before the resurrection. 
We open our hands, surrendering, letting go, giving Him our ruins, trusting that He is greater, that His light will shine in our deepest darkness, that He is our Rescuer, that He will come for us, and that He can make something glorious from our ruins.  
And He is faithful and so He does.
Death to life.  Darkness turned to light.  Brokenness to wholeness.  Ashes to beauty. Mourning to joy.  Despair turned into praise.  Ruins made glorious.  The divine exchange.  
I love the song, Glorious Ruins, by Hillsong  It fills me with hope and expectation for God to move in my ruins.  

Let the ruins come to life.

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