We go on the hunt today. Through field still cold and unturned, we hold our destination in sight, a ramshackle barn and a crumpled man’s home.
The textures of a life long-lived. That’s what we’re after.
We don’t want prettified.
We want real and we want to see the deep interiors, just as they are, before they’re gone from us all.
The man has moved out, too old and worn-down to live on his own anymore. House will be bull-dozed and barn will be burned. Flat land will turn into parking lot for buses of children coming to know wild prairie, home to many a bird and mammal.
Yes, the bull-dozing and burning will make way for new. But we don’t want to forget the old. We want to relish the treasures, go on one last hunt, learn what we can, embrace this life that was and still is, before she goes up into the arms of God.
I wonder how this barn feels about being stripped of her skin, her innards exposed? Are more vultures coming to peel her back, revealing more mess, picking her apart?
We have come seeking treasure hands can’t hold, to learn, to run fingers along her grooved face, to pay our last respects.
Our oldest son, one of our village’s volunteer firemen who will set torch to this place, he steps up and into the gut of her, then up again to the highest level.
He wants to see every corner of her before she goes. I watch his wonder as he points to unexpected finds like a scuba weight belt and flippers, a rusted refrigerator.
Our other son bends, plunging hands into a pile of sparkplugs.
Our daughter rummages through an old box of books, hooking some Bible stories and pulling them up, all dusty. “Look, Mom! I think he was a Christian!” The unexpected treasures we find when we search . . .
I go below, to stalls housing animals decades ago, protected by stone foundation.
I look through holes made from planks removed and see creation framed by broken.
I hold a piece of her in my hand, running a finger softly along her lines, carved by age and elements, and thank God for etching Himself into her skin.
“I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palm of my hands. Your walls are ever before me.” Isaiah 49:15-16
Her day is coming, when she will burn to the ground. Her ashes will feed the prairie, also burned to bring new life. The prairie will feed bird and beast. And I will walk through wildflower fields one day, grateful for all the giving and receiving, for all the remembering.
If this barn could think and feel, I would hope she’s relieved someone has come to know her and appreciate her, junk and all, holes and edges, wrinkles and scars. She’s beautiful, I think, as is.
And as for this barn of an aging woman, I am thankful for God and the many who have embraced the worn, the peeled back, the exposed, the one who’s tempted to think she’s beyond repair too often, the one who has burned and been burned but still stands by grace, wanting to be used for good.
Every barn has a story.
Sometimes, we need to find our way past scary cobwebs and thick settled dust.
Sometimes, we have to see dirty to come clean.
Sometimes, we have to let Grace come and walk within, instead of around.
But now, this is what the LORD says—he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Isaiah 43: 1-3