I don't know how the fascination began or what caused it -- but I have recently come to the strange realization that my Facebook and Instagram feeds are full of posts and images of abandoned houses and shopping malls. I discovered that I follow two different accounts that showcase forgotten and abandoned homes and businesses in Illinois and all across the South.
I promise that isn't a commentary on my life, nor does it reflect my current mood. It doesn't matter what I am doing, there is something that draws me in when I see an old farmhouse in complete disrepair being held up by concrete blocks and timbers. I gaze at all the intricate woodworking around the roofline. I see the amazing architecture's lines and form. I also see the boarded up windows and shards of broken floorboards on the front porches. I wonder what caused someone to deface such a once proud home with graffiti scrawled across the front.
The historian in me wonders who lived there, what their daily activities involved, who visited, and even how they spent Christmases or other holidays. It's as the old saying goes, "If walls could talk..."
I also stop and wonder at the emptiness and decay of abandoned shopping malls. In their heyday, shopping malls were incredible places: Food courts, every store you could imagine and, every teenager's favorite hangout, the arcade. Shopping malls were the lifeblood of an up-and-coming city -- until they weren't. The economy changed, business models changed and culture changed. All of those changes have now left us with sprawling buildings surrounded by giant parking lots with nothing but relics of a bygone era inside.
These abandoned shopping mall photos showcase giant trees and topiaries in planters left to dry and wither with no one attending to them. There are pictures of dusty and decrepit signage falling off the walls -- most of which are advertising businesses that died right along with the shopping mall. You'll find picture after picture of stacks of furniture and chairs where, at one time, many men sat and "people-watched" while they waited for their wife or girlfriend to come out of the store.
There are many times in our lives where we might feel that way as well. Empty and withering, left to contain relics of a bygone time. Times where we feel dry and dusty, left wondering what happened -- and where everyone went.
I know that to this point, this article has been incredibly heavy. Never fear, I am getting to the upswing!
Sure, we may feel like we are being held up by timbers so our porches won't cave in. We may feel like all the lights are out and the glory days have faded. Even though we may go through times in our lives where we feel abandoned, we can take heart knowing that it's not lost on God.
In Paul's second letter to the church in Corinth he used some lines to encourage the saints of this truth: While they may feel abandoned, they are not. While they may feel empty, they are not. "We are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed." (2 Cor. 4:9 CSB) The Greek word Paul uses means "to be left behind."
Paul wants them to know and trust that they are never "left behind" by God. Just because we say that we follow Jesus, doesn't mean that he sprints ahead of us, and we can't catch up. He's always with us - "Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you." (Deut. 31:8 NLT)
We are never abandoned by the Good Shepherd.
Listen to "Never Walk Alone" by Dwell Songs and Aaron Williams.
Jeremy DeGroot is lead pastor at FBC Siloam Springs, a husband, daddy and musician. You can contact him via email at [email protected] or reach out on Facebook.