A Time to Tear Down

Tearing down yesterday can be difficult. No matter the quality of yesterday, we have the capacity to form it to the comfort of an old shoe. That is not a bad thing. In the worst of times it’s a coping skill and in the best of times, an ability to perpetuate all that makes life worth living. The downside is that holding yesterday too close can keep tomorrow at bay.

Just now, I find myself in a demolition process. The old cottages at the Okoboji Bible Conference on Broadway at 71 in Arnolds Park are going away. There they’ve sat for more than 100 years. They’ve been added too, taken from, covered up, re-roofed, and held together by thick paint for a long time. They came to the Conference when the property was purchased in 1945 and are the only original buildings on that parcel. Prior to that, they were rental cottages. One presumes that their walls hold the secrets of a century of weekend getaways to Arnolds Park. Perhaps they were once upscale. But in the last many years they’ve become a community eyesore. It’s time for yesterday to go.

The inhibitions to this change were many: tradition, economy, uncertainty about the future. But the sneaky one was emotion. Those cottages may have been junk, but they were our junk. Our older leaders, of which I am now one, remembered much joy in those buildings. For some, it was the joy of family memories. For me, the cottages were a delicious escape from interminable sermons to play cards and eat pizza with the director’s kids. Ahh…but, there I go again, savoring yesterday.

The proclaimer of the wisdom of the Bible book of Ecclesiastes said it quite plainly: “There is a time to build and time to tear down.” Even when applied to rickety, century-old structures, that can be a tough call. But applied to feelings and relationships and habits and wounds and grievances, it feels nigh impossible. What areas of my life are not worthy of the high privilege of life going forward? Is there anything destructive or hurtful to me or others with which I have become comfortable?

One of the surprises in beginning the demolition was how tough those old cottages were. It was as if they did not want to go away. They seemed to know that their roots were deeper than their foundations. God loves to do new things in and through people. To do so, He may ask us to give up some old things. It’s not easy, but He offers to help. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!”

There is a time to build and time to tear down. Sometimes the tearing down must precede the building. The razing prepares for the raising. But we will have to let go of some of what is to experience what can be.

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