Rusty Objects

Ely, Nevada and Adlin, California

Psalm 119:25-32
I’m feeling terrible—I couldn’t feel worse!
Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember?
When I told my story, you responded;
train me well in your deep wisdom.
Help me understand these things inside and out
so I can ponder your miracle-wonders.
My sad life’s dilapidated, a falling-down barn;
build me up again by your Word.
Barricade the road that goes Nowhere;
grace me with your clear revelation.
I choose the true road to Somewhere,
I post your road signs at every curve and corner.
I grasp and cling to whatever you tell me;
GOD, don’t let me down!
I’ll run the course you lay out for me
if you’ll just show me how.
— The Message

During the trip, someone asked me why I posted so many pictures of rusty
objects on my Facebook journal. I laughed because there were so many
more pictures that I had not posted.
Still, I thought about her question each time I passed something else in
the middle of a field or on the side of a road that had outlived its
usefulness and was abandoned where it stood.
I wondered if I had always thought of those relics as things of beauty, or if
my personal journey with aging had made them more beautiful to me? I
cannot definitively say, but they do fascinate me.
When I see an abandoned truck or structure, I think about the stories it
could tell. Back in the day when it had miles to travel or was freshly
painted and a hubbub of activity, what had it been like? Some of the
rusted out objects had been hauling-trucks, stores, homes or mills. They
had provided people with transportation, shelter, gathering places, and
livelihood. What happened to its vitality? Was it parked where it stopped
or did something happen to the owner? Was the traffic that kept the store
alive diverted by a new road? Did a chain store come to town and put the
death nail in the business? When people gather, do they reminisce about
what the structure used to be or do, and tell stories about it then?
So many questions.
It always frustrates me when I stop somewhere that touts an interesting
history on billboards for miles, and the employees cannot talk to me about
it. I want to say,
“Know your story, people,
” Well, as long as we have a
collective memory in the south, (sometimes to the consternation of
outsiders), we are pretty good about remembering those places and
stories. We give directions using those old landmarks. “You go down to
where the sewing plant used to be and turn left in front of it. Then go by
the Old Wilson place and who you are looking for is two mailboxes past
that. You can’t miss it.”
The tenacity of those objects impresses me. Even when abandoned, they
did not fade away. Trees grow through the porch decking, and yet the
house stands. Failing foundations make them curtsey and bow, but it
simply adds to the building’s charm. The rusty metal develops a beautiful
patina and a softness that is impossible to replicate in something new. I
feel an obligation to not just be nostalgic about their stories, but pay
homage to their past. In so doing, we can learn from their stories and
embrace their purpose for being a part of a community.
It is not just the relics that have a story. I believe that every person has a
holy story. Those rusty objects are simple reminders of that truth for me. I
had a pastor friend who would say to people he wanted to engage,
“ Tell
me a bit about your story.” It was so much more inviting than,
“Who are
you “or “what do you do?” An invitation to hear someone’s story is to
value what has brought them to that moment, an opportunity to see
where our lives intersect.
You do not need to share my appreciation for rusty and dilapidated
objects, but I hope that each time you look into the eyes of any beloved
child of God, you see that he/she has infinite value and a story to tell. It is
a story that will enrich the teller and the hearer, but we must remember
that often the more worn and wizened the teller, the better the stories.

Oh God, who sees our foibles as beauty marks and our weariness as an
expression of perseverance, please give us the desire to see the splendor
in each other and the willingness to hear the story of those standing just
outside our circle, who are unnoticed and unseen. Amen

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