Time will let the story told grow and grow ‘til it unfolds
In a way that even you cannot ignore
You can say the seasons change but never if you just remain
In a place where the freeze is at your door
What you don’t know is the signs are right for the turning tide
--Bebo Norman, Into the Day
They tell me that all the great stories have in common paradise, a fall, death, and resurrection. I believe it to be true because all the inner yearnings of my heart, and the hearts of those I know, look at the situation we are in, remember a time (imagined or not,) when what is so wasn't so, and dream of a time in the future where a resurrection of all we hold dear rises out of the ashes.
A Pictorial History of Waco: Volume 2 causes people to stop and take notice. The old folks become lost in remembrance, the young people in wonder. The cover art, a photograph of downtown, shows Austin Avenue bustling with activity and vitality. Cars are on the street and the whole area is lit with the glow of dozens of neon signs. The picture was taken in 1961, eight years after the tenth deadliest tornado in U.S. History ripped through the heart of Waco, killing 114 people. One looks at the front of the book and wonders "What happened, and can it be again?"
I've heard people say downtown was never the same after the tornado, and this makes me wonder about how the vibrant activity in the picture. Apparently there have been dozens of stops and starts in the efforts to bring the area back to the glory days. Today Austin Avenue is littered with the remnants of failed attempts at revitalization. A mural on the side of the old Christus Shumpert Hospital remembers a time when city leaders sought to create a downtown pedestrian mall to attract activity. In the mere six years I've lived in Waco, I've seen old storefronts worked on, boarded up, then worked on again.
For us mere mortals, resurrection often comes through fits and starts. But as long as memory exists, the hope of resurrection can always be looming just around the corner.
I'm wearing a shirt with the words "City on a Hill" printed on the front. City on a Hill was just the name of one of my old friend's band, but the phrase, straight from the mouth of Jesus, reaches deep within us and pulls out the ancient longings for community, belonging, and just good old life. Wherever we gather, we are searching for the City on a Hill. When scandal occurs, we get angry because someone put their own personal desires ahead of the good of the City. When death takes one of our citizens, our friend, we are reminded that all our attempts at creating utopia in this world are only a reaching out for a brief touch of the real life that exists in the next.
Reason #5 Why I Love this town: In being a living, breathing embodiment of imperfection, I am, on a daily basis, reminded of the big themes: Paradise Lost. The desire for resurrection. And the great need for love and community while walking through the concrete and the dirt of a place inhabited by citizens rubbing shoulders, shaking hands, and hugging necks, simply begging to be infected with the glorious disease of hope.