I live in a little historic town, charming and full of life…especially in the Spring, with the mature dogwood trees and gardens in full-bloom. There are several old houses that I love to look at on my daily drives. One in particular is a creamy yellow, craftsman style house with a lot of “character.”

The owner of the house sits daily on the front porch in his brown wicker rocker, gazing at the world as it passes by. Since he’s there almost every day, I call him the town watchman.

But a few days ago, my daily drive past the old house took a drastic scenery turn.

As I pulled around the curve towards the house, I noticed black smoke and orange flames shooting out of the upstairs window. No fire-trucks or police yet, it was the raw scene of a fire, with frantic people running around.

My heart sank as I slowly drove by. But what made my heart ache even more was what happened later that day.

The fire-trucks, police and even the American Red Cross were gone. But there on the front porch, amidst yellow caution tape and a red UNSAFE sign nailed to the corner post of the house, sat our town watchman. He was in his brown-wicker rocker.

A man stood at the edge of his driveway on a cell phone. He looked flustered, angry and as if he was trying to get our town watchman off the dangerous front porch. But there was no budging, no getting him to go anywhere. The look on his face screamed that this was his home, his place, and he wasn’t leaving.

My town’s watchman had a redefining moment that day. The house he called home was no longer safe. The porch in which he sat was now filled with rubble. Life as he knew it was about to change.

As I watched him sit on that porch, holding on desperately to what he had known, I could identify with the feelings his soul invariably worked through. As the days, weeks, and months pass he will now categorize his life with words like, “Before the fire.” or “After the fire.”

Seems like no matter how much we don’t want tragedies or painful experiences to define us…they still do.

~The rejection.

~The cancer.

~The job loss.

~The divorce.

~The death.

~The depression.

As we travel through the after’s of life, we will crave the moments of joy we had in the before’s.

But today, God is teaching me something. While we cannot go back to the life we once had, we also don’t serve a God who is a once God.

He’s a “then” God.

~Jesus dies. Then, He rose. (Luke 24:1-12)

~You were sick. Then, Jesus healed. (Matthew 14:14)

~Life feels desperate. Then, Jesus came in. (Proverbs 3:5,6)

~You were broken. Then, God put you back together. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Letting go of what is gone is painful and looking towards what is ahead is sometimes hard. I’m challenged to allow God to be my “then” God.

What about you?

“…You will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” — Isaiah 58:12

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