Last year my family visited the National September 11 Memorial in New York City. It’s a solemn work of art, bringing life and a bit of peace to a place of death and destruction. As my family and I paused there, I found myself grateful that the project’s architects had not covered over the places where the twin towers once stood. Instead they transformed them. In the towers’ footprints are pools lined with black granite, honoring the losses they represent. The names of victims are etched in panels along the pools’ edges. The pools themselves flow with cascading water, and trees fill the surrounding plaza, creating a peaceful place for reflection. Right next door, the new tower (nicknamed “Freedom Tower”) at One World Trade Center stands triumphant, casting shadows over the memorial below.
Our memories of September 11, 2001, provide a sobering illustration of how fragile our lives are, how suddenly death can alter the landscape, and how utterly horrifying human hatred can be. Yet this spot has not remained an open wound in the ground or a gap in the skyline. It has become a place where beauty, grief, and hope mingle like flowing waters. It has given rise to something new that doesn’t replace what was there, but makes the place productive again.
There’s probably some part of you that is similarly gaping and vulnerable, where hatred has left a swath of destruction or pain has left you with little hope for healing. Perhaps some part of you has died.
This hurting part of you does not have to remain barren and bleak. God specializes in bringing life to dried-up places and hope to defeated people. And no one else knows more about transformation.
This is a God who, through the prophet Isaiah, offered astounding hope to the people of Israel:
“This is what the Lord says—
he who made a way through the sea,
a path through the mighty waters,
who drew out the chariots and horses,
the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”
God is capable of doing new things in your life too. He causes streams of living water to spring up in the desert, and he can bring new life to the wounded, walled-off places in you. He may not cover over your scars or take away your pain, but he will transform them. As you welcome His work in and through you, He will bring life to your scarred landscape and make it productive again. This very place in your life may prove the gateway to your greatest experience with God’s grace.
There is no greater source of hope than the architect who first created – and is still working on – you.
*First published September, 2017, at AmySimpson.com. Used with permission.
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Amy Simpson is the award-winning author of Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry, Blessed Are the Unsatisfied: Finding Spiritual Freedom in an Imperfect World, and Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission (InterVarsity Press). She’s also an editor for Moody Publishing, a leadership coach, and a frequent speaker. You can find her at AmySimpson.com and on Twitter.