Last Friday morning, a building which holds more than 130 years of history and spiritual significance for my church burned. The Provo Tabernacle stood next to the temple in significance for the early Saints in Provo . . . it was their meetinghouse, a place to gather often to share praise in song, and it went on serving that purpose, as well as housing graduation and interfaith and community gatherings throughout its life. I've had several beautiful experiences there (and a couple of funny ones). I'm so, so sad that I'll never be able to walk with my children through that building, pointing out to them where I stood with their dad, singing as part of the congregation-cum-choir for the Messiah Sing-in, the Christmas after we first met; or the very spot where I stood when I had the honor of leading an excellent BYU student ward choir (with a fantastic accompanist) in singing the new Pioneer Hymn Faith in Every Footstep as part of the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the Saint's arrival in the Salt Lake Valley. Or where I sat, expecting MrC, with my husband on one side, and my best friend from college on the other, one sweltering summer Sunday when it was our turn to hold stake conference there. So much beauty, so much history, all around. The city of Provo is rocked . . . memorial services have even been held where, true to culture and nature, memories were shared and music was sent soaring out to help comfort the mourning.
As I've thought about this loss, I've been reminded yet again that physical things are simply tools the Lord uses to work good in the world, in our lives. All these things will pass away, if not in the natural course of time, then in the great cleansing at the end of the world when the elements will melt with fervent heat, and the earth will be renewed . . . erasing the many years of destruction and pollution wreaked by men. That which endures fire is what really matters; the relationships we have, the allegiances and loves and memories. Which makes this image all the more powerful:
This is the only piece of artwork which survived the fire . . . and the surviving portion of the image is the Savior himself. Not only is He the Only Way, but He is the only one who could survive the fire of the atonement, who could experience the incredible furnace of the spiritual and emotional consequences of every evil every committed by man, and emerge on the other side, shining as a beacon and beckoning for us to follow him.