Ghost Town

This is an article called A Ghost Town Burns Down (Finding Freedom in Hurricane Frances) that an acquaintance of mine, Hurley employee Jamie Tworkowski, wrote in the aftermath of Hurricane Frances. And while there have been no hurricanes or fires in my life lately, the season of spring usually hits me like a ton of bricks with new life and new possibilities… and this spring has been more filled with that feeling than usual. All that to say, this article has been resenating with me lately on a few levels (nothing overt, don’t read into it too much), so I thought i’d share

“Burn down the ghost town”. Early last week, those words started filling up the pages of my journal. It was a song. It was a prayer. Hurricane Frances was hundreds of miles away but the winds of change were beginning to blow. Those words seemed to find me all week long. I didn’t understand it but I knew of a place in me filled with memories of sin and regret, a place that couldn’t completely accept the promises of forgiveness and freedom.

For the last two years, I have shared an amazing office with two of my best friends. It is a second floor apartment on A1A in Satellite Beach, Florida; one of the few places where the view is the ocean rather than a condo. The three of us handle sales and marketing for Hurley International in Florida. We are surfers, and on good days, we can see the waves from our desks. Our office is full of color and we work surrounded by art, media, clothing and music we connect with. We get a lot of visitors and they are constantly reminding us how good we have it.

Saturday night, this office burned to the ground. As Hurricane Frances came ashore, a transformer exploded and our building quickly went down in the flames of an electrical fire. Firefighters could do nothing in the 90 mph wind and heavy rain. In terms of our jobs, we lost nearly everything.

Yesterday, I shared this story with someone who I don’t know very well. He seemed shocked that I could tell it with a smile. Through the eyes of work and the world, there isn’t much reason to. But for me, this has been a powerful picture of redemption. It is a reminder of God’s unfailing fight for my freedom. This is my story of finally letting go of the pain of the past and embracing joy in the promise of new life. 

You see, I quietly hated that office. It was a prison filled with memories of sin and regret. A constant reminder of the chains of a selfish life. I gave my heart away in there; to a fear-bred stress that I called “working hard”, and to a broken relationship with a young woman who I don’t know today. We broke up last November and I quickly began to feel the weight of my sin, the haunting taste of deep regret.

I believe in forgiveness. I know the Gospels. I believe that God’s grace covers me, that Jesus took my sins to the cross. I suppose that the greater challenge may be found in forgiving myself, believing that the past can be left behind. My prayer has been one of freedom; one of new beginnings.

Fire is an extreme. It is a metaphor we connect with. Thankfully, God doesn’t literally burn down all the buildings that we associate with pain and sin. (My new friend Aaron reminded me that there wouldn’t be much left standing). But I am thankful that He let it happen this once in my life, that He let it go to that extreme. All the late nights of stress and lust and pain burned Saturday night. I am again reminded of God’s amazing love; His power to heal and forgive and redeem. 

My favorite songs are anthems; love songs and fight songs about the way things should be. I’ve heard Switchfoot’s Dare You to Move five hundred times and it still gets me. It is a prayer and a challenge that makes me cry and wakes me up. And many of my favorite words have come from writer John Eldredge. He has set free in me the amazing possibility that the man I want to be is a little boy who might lead and serve and fight and love. 

Perhaps your prayers and your dreams feel crazy. My guess is that they’re not. Picture Lord of the Rings. That is basically my head and my heart. There’s a king and a kingdom, a princess, storms and fires and swords. A little crazy, right? My guess is that I am not alone. I am learning that the words of fairy tales and war stories are for all of us. Things are simply this serious. 

We have an enemy who would tell us that our hearts belong in prisons and places full of ghosts. It is a lie. The truth is that we are more loved than we will ever know. We are offered freedom in a Father and King who forgives and makes all things new. May He continue to burn down the ghost towns in all of us. And may His kingdom come as we smile at the stories.