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Razed Temples

"Each of us has beliefs, aspects of our lives we regard as fundamental, on which we rely for our interior stability. These may be health or love, family or fortune. We derive joy and meaning from these interior beliefs. We think and we hope that these 'temples' will never change.

Sometimes our 'temples' are inherited, easily becoming family traditions. Sometimes we build them. We count on them. No matter what they are, we consider them central, solid, and sacred. We yearn to make them secure and expend great effort in attempts to make them so. They have genuine roles in our lives—but we are sometimes forced to discover that they have no real permanence."

—Alexander John Shaia, Theologian and Scholar


In the brief quote above, Dr. Shaia invites us to consider the attachments we all have in our lives and want to protect. He refers to them as temples. As Shaia indicates, they may be temples which we constructed ourselves, or they may be temples that were constructed for us and passed down to us by people we know and trust.

No matter how we got them, when our temples come under attack, it can be terrifying. And when our temples are destroyed, it can be devastating. Certainly, we have all faced, or are now facing, the besiegement or destruction of numerous temples in our lives.

The question is: how will we respond?

Though the terror and devastation we experience in such times is very real, the rubble of fallen temples nevertheless present us with an opportunity to see that which we could not previously behold. That which we thought was permanent—that which we wanted to be everlasting—was, in fact, temporary. How will we respond?

Some will commit to rebuild—to put everything back just as it was—every stone in its previous place as if nothing ever happened. Others will theorize about what caused the destruction, warning us against repeating the sins they conclude initiated our demise. A few will simply pack up what’s left and move on—too exhausted to rebuild or argue over the cause of destruction. And there will be those who are simply hurt, in need of care, too burdened to even consider a response.

The invitation for those who are willing to see what could not be seen before the temple was razed is simple—though it is not easy.

  • Care for the hurting; serve the exhausted.

  • Be patient and merciful with those anxiously trying to explain or rebuild.

  • Enter into the pain. Resist the temptation to bypass it, circumvent it, numb it, or deny it.

The revelation of a destroyed or crumbling temple exists in recognizing that even this pain has work to do on us. This darkness will give birth to a new dawn. As Pema Chödrön wrote, “Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.”

In the Christian tradition, we call this resurrection—and that which is resurrected is something we could never imagine before.

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

- John 2:19


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