I wrote this article for publication in Mount Gambier’s local paper, The Border Watch last Friday.
Recently our town council has purchased the derelict site of our former hospital, now vacant for some fifteen years.
Tours around the grounds were recently conducted to enable locals to refamiliarise themselves with the precinct.
Having only lived in Mount Gambier for nine years or so, it was with a sense of great curiosity that I walked around the old hospital last weekend. Though the structure has dominated the view of our town from the front door-step of our home for all that time, I had no idea of what was actually there.
It was interesting to walk inside the old nursing school, and, after that, peer through the broken windows into the hospital itself from outside. Wandering as a group I couldn’t help hear someone comment that a former staff-member of the hospital they knew wouldn’t be coming because the sight of the dilapidated structures would make them too sad.
That sentiment was only too easy to understand. Over the decades families had seen members arrive (and depart) in that place. Lifesaving surgeries took place. The distressed and the ill received care and comfort dispensed by a legion of dedicated nurses. It’s no wonder that the older community of Mount Gambier look upon the site with great affection and would like the structure preserved in some fashion or another.
The memory of the old can be a wellspring from which future hope flows.
It’s not always that way, though.
Sometimes all life’s past memories seem to produce are closed doors and deadends. Failure and regret strangle hope and optimism. It’s why, for some people, Christmas Day is the loneliest day of the year. The memory of the old chokes any sense of hope for their future. Some of us go about our lives, day by day feeling like the emotional equivalents of a ruined building. All we need is a sign around our necks saying ‘condemned’.
Jesus’ message, that we must be born again to enter the kingdom of God, is a message that speaks of a new beginning that nurtures hope afresh. While the past is not erased, failure and disappointment don’t disqualify us from fruitful and satisfying relationships in the future. It is not that present trials disappear, or even that the consequences of past failings are gone, but rather that we no longer have to feel they define us and map our future.
Experiencing the new birth enables us to seek a future that is defined by being a child of God, not a past failure. The ultimate ‘renovation rescue’.
Maybe you feel like that old hospital, a ruin whose best days seem to be past and gone, and for whom a future hope seems to be hard to imagine. Jesus invites you not to dwell in those thoughts, but to turn from them and the life that brought them to being and turn to him and receive his invitation to start a new life as a child of God.
Then start dreaming of the future anew.