“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven…A time to tear down and a time to build up…A time to embrace and a time to turn away…A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak.” (Eccl. 3:1,3,5-7 NLT)
Last Saturday, in “CATHEDRALS! Part 3”, we learned from the construction of Gaudi’s Crypt in Colonia Guell that our support is to be given when it is requested; but once it is no longer bidden, then we, like Gaudi, must stop trying to convict and assist and advise. Yes, we know what the potential consequences might be, but we must respect the right of others to make their own choices.
But are there consequences of not withdrawing our support?
Along the River Ara in the Pyrenees Mountains in Aragon, Spain, lies the overgrown and broken-down walls of what was once the cathedral of the abandoned town of Janovas.
In the 1960s, a project was proposed to build a dam across the River Ara. This dam would raise the water levels, creating a huge reservoir that would flood out 17 tiny villages, including the hamlet of Janovas.
When the people of Janovas were told to leave their town, they resisted for years. In fact, one family, the Garcias, continued to reside in what slowly became a ghost town for over 20 years.
The company who now owned the land retaliated by dynamiting homes, burning crops that were being harvested, destroying the local infrastructure, and endlessly harassing and threatening those who refused to leave. The story is told that the local authorities would not allow the closing of the school while there were children in it. On August 4, 1966, a company worker broke down the school’s door while it was in session and forced the teacher out by her hair so that the building could be demolished. It is also said that the company blocked the only bridge connecting the village to the main road on three different occasions, thus making it impossible for residents to go to work, bring in supplies, etc.
Interestingly, in 2001 the dam project was officially abandoned, and today, a few overgrown, run-down buildings are all that is left of Janovas. One of these ruins is the remains of the cathedral. The townspeople tried for up to 20 years to support their homes when that support was not desired or requested, and as a result of this forced support, not only did they suffer dire consequences, but in the end, they completely lost their homes.
Forty-three kilometers down the road, there is another village, Mediano. In 1974 a different hydro project flooded this Spanish town to create one of the country’s largest reservoirs: The reservoir de Mediano. Though completely submerged, the remnants of the 16th century hamlet are still visible. To this day, the bell tower of the cathedral can be seen emerging from the water.
Two cathedrals: One abandoned, run down, overrun with weeds and trees; the other, though submerged, standing strong. What do these two churches have to teach us about being supportive?
Simply this: As told to us by the world’s wisest man, there is a time for everything. There is a time to show support, but there is also a time to withdraw that support (See Eccl 3). When we withdraw, then just like the bell tower atop the 16th century church of Mediano continues to dominate the landscape, peeking up from the waters of the reservoir, we, too, will continue to hold a place of influence in the lives of those we wish to support. But if we, like the townspeople of Janovas, insist on being supportive when our support is not asked for or desired, then we close the door on ever being able to be of influence in those lives.
Throughout this series, we have looked to the example of God as our ultimate Father, our ultimate example in being supportive. We see that He only reaches out to help us, to give us support, when we specifically ask. This is because He knows something that we don’t: He knows that it is only in stepping back when He is not desired that He can continue to be of support for us in the future. He knows that if He insists on dominating our lives, we might eventually completely close the door to any support He may wish to give us in the future.
The lesson on being supportive that we can learn here is simply this: When our advice and help is requested, we must be there for those requesting it; but when it is not, even if we know that the chosen paths lead to destruction, the only way we can truly be supportive is to withdraw. Only then can we continue to be there to help them pick up the pieces that may result.
But wait. When we see those we wish to support going down the wrong paths, when we see that withholding our advice and help may result in disaster, how can we, as loving, caring parents and friends, simply sit back and do nothing?
We can’t. Even when our advice and help is rejected, there is something that we not only can, but we must do…Join us on Thursday for “CATHEDRALS! Part 5: La Playa de la Catedrais”.
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.
(To access the entire “Cathedrals! Lessons on Being Supportive” mini-series, Click here.)