We walked through the ancient ruins of Pompeii and Rome, gazing at countless numbers of stones that though now crumbled, were once built to show off the power of the dynasty they represented. Stones littered the ground, many of them etched with ancient writings that I could not make out, giving the whole place a strangely eerie yet majestic feel. You could tell that at one time, these stones were layered to form the most beautifully jaw-dropping structures and that the people who once graced their steps would have felt like they owned the world. In many ways, they did. Being part of the Roman empire at that time would have meant being a member of the greatest empire in the world. They would have been at the pinnacle of civilization at that time.
Yet, walking through those ruins, I found that that was exactly what they were. Ruined. Very few of the stones were layered anymore (at least in Rome) but instead were scattered about having very little structure. Those that were still in place, no longer suggested the pinnacle of civilization but instead, a forgotten world. Don't get me wrong, when I looked upon these ancient sites, I was still left with a sense of awe. Imagining what the city must have looked like in the first century leaves me still in shock. It is impressive to say the least. Yet, even though I was impressed, I could not ignore the fact that despite being the 'greatest empire in the world', it too fell and now lies in destruction. It too fell prey to the demise of man. Now, what was once great, is but a memory. What a sobering reality when we consider the 'greatness' of man. Man can never compare to the greatness of what God has built.
Now, before I get too depressive, let me also say that while I looked at those ruins, I saw something else that was so stunning. All throughout those ancient fallen ruins, there was a common thread that could not go unnoticed. Entangled and woven throughout these stones, there was something that was making itself known. New life. For generations, flowers and grass had been growing over, underneath and through all the crooks and crevices of the once majestic empire that had fallen and been left behind. Not just any flowers, but the most beautiful and wild kinds. The ones that make you stop and stare at their colors and beauty. It was a stark contrast. The ruins of an ancient empire that once stood as a proclamation of the glory of man. The simple yet stunning flowers of the earth that suggested spring and new life. The two seemed so contrary to one another yet as I looked upon them, they reminded me of the greatest news.
In the midst of destruction, God brings new life and new life reclaims brokenness. When our attempts at greatness fail (and they will when done for our own glory) God mercifully let's it fall. In even greater mercy though, He doesn't leave us there, in a place of despair and disrepair. Instead, He so beautifully brings about new life and not just anywhere...but in the cracks and crevices of what was once broken. Those cracks and crevices serve as a reminder of what we used to be but what God has done in spite of it. You might think I'm a bit crazy to gather all of that from some ancient ruins but as I have walked with God these past 20 or so years, I have become so thankful for the way He speaks to me in a visual way. He shows me His beauty and His truth in my coming and in my going. He reveals Himself in the way I see the world and in the ways He has worked in generations past. You see, the story is still the same today as it was in the days of the glory of Ancient Rome. Our own glory will fall and crumble, leaving us destroyed and in disrepair, but the Lord graciously comes in and brings new life. Life that shows off His greatness. That is the greatest news I will ever hear.
So, in the name of visual learning and new life,
I Say, Take Me Back!