During our recent trip across to South Australia I was struck by the number of stone ruins we saw in the outback regions. I couldn’t help but wonder about the stories those remaining, broken and lonely walls could tell; stories of challenge and hardship on land where now even salt bush struggles to grow. Stories of families whose dreams of a country life and a thriving farm, clashed with the elements, the environment, native animals and the relentless Australian climate, or perhaps with family tragedy, maybe even treachery.
These remains whisper of a life once lived in Silverton where a small community of artists still reside, mostly dependent on the tourist dollar for survival. Bus loads and carloads of visitors arrive to see their work, and also the Mad Max museum, which boasts of the movie's location. It’s a place for an interesting hour or so, but one which is hard to imagine as a permanent place of residence. However our wander around the old courthouse and pub, the homes-turned-art galleries, the historical remnants, caused a few stories to form in my mind.
It was beautiful to see the occasional remains of an early house close to the road, replaced with a home further back on a rise, overlooking what is clearly a successful property. My mind ran to stories of overcoming, of adaption and determination, of hope for the future.
The most interesting of the ruins we came across was one set in what seemed to have once been a small village, now a ghost town; a couple of streets, an abandoned church, a few farms in the distance. On closer investigation we noticed the writing on the front wall. After feeling relief that it wasn’t the usual blasphemous graffiti, my imagination again strayed to the possible story behind the remains of what was perhaps a substantial home.
Who would write “new owner Jesus” on the wall? Perhaps the previous owner, as they left after a battle to survive they could no longer sustain? A message of goodbye to a much loved home which had become unsellable? A note of acceptance and letting go, allowing Jesus to do what He willed with a lifestyle they had to walk away from? Perhaps an invitation for passers by who needed shelter; an empty dwelling for the taking? I wondered if it might once have been a pastor’s home as the dilapidated and empty church was just across the road; the message one of resignation.
Whatever the real story, as we drove away sadness washed over me. The message became a contradiction, for I cannot imagine any place where Jesus resides being a ruin; abandoned, dilapidated or forsaken. Whatever hardships we face in our lives, whatever challenges are ours, isn’t it a blessing to know that Jesus sustains us? Whatever we have to move on from in our lives, we can be sure Jesus comes with us, and in fact leads the way. Wherever Jesus resides there is always new life, fresh starts, renovation, restoration.
So the sign on this wall gave my imagination food for interesting thought, as had many of the other abandoned properties and homes we saw. But most of all my wonderings left me thankful for the grace of God that sees us through all of our battles, and for the presence of Jesus in our lives, which gives us the assurance that we will never walk alone, never be abandoned or forsaken, that there will always be hope and new life.
Carol writes historical novels based on her family ancestry in Australia and include the Turning the Tide series; Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets and Truly Free. Her earlier novels Suzannah’s Gold and Rebecca’s Dream have been re-released by EBP. Her latest novel, Next of Kin was released this year by Rhiza Press. You can see more about Carol and her novels on her website or her FB author page.