My husband jokes that if I ever become famous, they’ll have to put up more historic placards than they used for Ronald Reagan. It seems like nearly every state has claimed a childhood home of the Gipper. If it was me, they’d start with the hospital in Effingham, they’d mark the trailer court in Perrysburg. There’d be East Carlisle Elementary, near Cleveland, where I attended Kindergarten in the basement. Riverside would have to acknowledge the little ranch house on Priscilla Street, and the 1840’s brick house on Tyler Rd would become quite a landmark, because I wrote my name in the brick and the closets alike during my tenure there. And that would be before my homeless college years, when I changed domicile from semester to semester and break to break.
The place where I spent the most time as I was growing up, however, would apparently be left off. An old friend posted a photo this week of the demolition going on by the shores of Belleville Lake. My high school is being scrapped, replaced by a fresh new building that, from the school district’s on-line slide show, looks very much like every other new high school being built right now, with beautiful glass atriums and state of the art everything. It made me feel a little old, to see my high school being torn down. I suddenly realized that it has been twenty years since I joined the choir, swam for the team, and bored the audience to laughter as the office messenger in Up the Down Staircase. The building was outdated and lacking in many ways, even then, so surely those additional decades haven’t been kind.
For a moment, it felt like maybe I was losing something important to me. That my next trip to the ‘Ville was going to be somehow lacking in some important connection or memory. Like most people, I have this habit of believing that my emotions and memories dwell in the buildings where they happened. But I haven’t been back in the BHS building since the last day I attended there. In the last fifteen years, I’ve only even driven by once. The relationships, lessons, life experiences, and memories that happened in that building are alive and well, living in me. They are part of what made me who I am, and whenever I want to relive them, I have photo albums, yearbooks, and friends with whom to reminisce. It makes no difference whether that building still stands or not. But for a moment, looking at the photo, it mattered a lot.
We get the same misconception about faith. We come to believe that God dwells in brick and mortar. Oftentimes, we believe, God loves best to dwell where the seats are uncomfortable benches and the window views are obstructed by stained glass. But it opens up a whole new kind of faith to tear down the church – at least figuratively – and let the relationship, lessons, and experiences live in you, and be lived out in you. God doesn’t live in a building – God lives in people of faith.
My little heartache at seeing my high school torn down, reminded me again about letting go of the transient things of earth and letting the eternal dwell in me.
“But will God really dwell on earth with humans? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! 2 Chronicles 6:18