On vacation through the western US a few years ago, I stopped at a ghost town. The dark brown wood and weathered red brick provide an amazing contrast against the cloudless bright blue skies. For those unfamiliar, a ghost town isn’t haunted by spirits; it’s a town which no longer has any residents but the buildings of the town are still there. They are shells with the mere appearance of life. Ghosts.
These were usually towns in the American west with few natural resources – especially water – and when those few resources dried up, there was no longer a means of survival. Sometimes the towns died away when the railroad bypassed them for other towns.
Ghost towns can be disappointing, especially if you are expecting life from them. From afar, they appear to be towns of energy but the closer you get, the easier it is to see they are nothing but the dry bones of your assumptions.
Throughout your life you will meet people who are like ghost towns. They present a facade, a false front. They seem to be certain types of people, but the more you get to know them, when you really begin to investigate from up close, you discover the lives you’ve been led to trust aren’t really there.
There are many people whose spiritual lives can be characterized as “ghost towns” too.
Ghost towns are a reminder of how foolish we are to ‘judge a book by the cover’ and that ‘all that glitters is not gold.’ After a while of looking around at the loss and death, we can appreciate even more what real life looks like. We then move on to find real towns – and real people – who are full of abundant life.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:27-28).