written by Kelly Vetter, March 2016
I was exposed to an incredible amount of history during my semester abroad. Everywhere that I turned, everything that I touched, it was all laced with history. But it was the sites with ancient ruins that captivated me the most. I know and appreciate history, but never before had I actually set foot upon an ancient site, never before had I experienced anything quite like it. It blew my mind. I could barely comprehend something so old, so enduring. How could something stretch over time and still be here for my eyes to behold? I came to believe that these ancient sites I was visiting are symbols of His love for me, what He’s done for me – and that His love stretches over time and stretches over me.
When we visited Sicily and Southern Italy as a group we visited several ancient sites. We were at the heart of ancient Magna Graecia after all. It felt like I was transported to another time, or as if time stood still in these places. Ancient temples dominated the skyline, the Mediterranean Sea in view, mild weather, olive trees for miles upon miles. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Whether we were visiting Taormina, Agrigento, Pompeii, or Paestum, one thing tied it all together- glorious ruins.
I remember arriving at the amphitheater in Taormina. It was my first stop among this tour of glorious ruins. It was a warm and humid day, overcast, with the chance of showers. We got into the theater and I could not believe my eyes. The theater is immense. It looks out on the Straits of Messina, beautiful turquoise water flanking the stage while the tip of Mt. Etna framed the back of the theater. Red bricks everywhere. Benches overgrown with vibrant green grass. How could this still be standing, how was it still so beautiful? All I could think of was glorious ruins.
Glorious ruins. That’s what came to mind. He makes beautiful things. The juxtaposition of beauty and ruins. It’s what He makes of me too. I’m crumbling apart, but He still manages a way to hold me together and bring out my beauty. The Taormina amphitheater. Sheer beauty. A glorious ruin. His handiwork was evident. So much beauty to behold. Everywhere I turned, every angle. His beauty is unparalleled and it’s the most stunning in its rawest of forms- glorious ruins.
And then there was Pompeii. We had left Naples. It was a beautiful November afternoon, not a cloud in the sky. I wandered around the streets of Pompeii, enchanted by this ancient city. One moment it was there, the next is was destroyed. Yet it remains. And I thought, again, glorious ruins. They captivate me. And they remind me of His love for me. That day I was taken back 2,000 years. If you close your eyes, nothing changes at all. His love remains the same. He won’t fail me now. Looking at the ruins, wandering the cobblestone streets, watching the sunset. It was all God-breathed. He was there, at Pompeii. Glorious ruins. I was taken back to the beginning. All the way to Pompeii. And I realized His love stretches over time and stretches over me.
This journey of glorious ruins revealed His love for me in a unique way. I saw tangible ruins, and that they still remain. They endure. And it was then that I realized His love is the same. His love remains. It has always been. Since the beginning of time, like glorious ruins. And this truth captivated me and sent me on a journey to find more tangible symbols of His love for me. It’s a journey that I’ll never stop taking because I’m resolved to discover new depths and heights of His love for me. And perhaps it all started with the lyrics to this song, Glorious Ruins, which I’ll leave with you.
Let the ruins come to life
In the beauty of Your name
Rising up from the ashes
God forever You reign
And my soul will find refuge
In the shadow of Your wings
I will love You forever
And forever I’ll sing
I only want to know more of His love. And these ancient ruins gave me just a glimpse of His glorious love for me.