I could tell there are hundreds of them without even looking. The Mill had been around for more than 100 years. Some of the bricks showed their age and others looked new; well, as new as you can look for being as old as they were. Some of the bricks were still deep red, while others were more pink and brown. Maybe every 20th one was dark as if it had been burned. The wall had been patched several times; it's hard to say what some of the holes were from. They weren't really going for aesthetics when they replaced the bricks, just trying to plug up some hole. But they still seemed strong enough. If you look close, there are remnants of all sorts of fasteners, nails, and hooks that had been useful in their previous industrial mill life. Like rusted scabs, they remain among the stains, dripping a touch of rust here and there. But now the bricks frame my view out over the river and all the drab colors of winter. The trees are spectacular in their icy, sparkly whites. In spite of its patches, the brick walls in my apartment give both a sense of character and stability to the frame. It is what gives my place its charm.
Our lives are made of many bricks and we serve as the mason. We carefully build our foundations from our experiences. When we are young, we are fresh and fired strong. Our walls are small and it is easy to just go over and around them. But with each passing year the bricks of character begin to rise. Life's rewards and challenges each add to our strength. There are times that our wall is broken and patched, but we emerge just as strong as before, though maybe not as pretty. We are left with scars of things that no longer have a purpose in our world, but remain embedded with rusty tears.
Our character is what frames our view. We all have flaws if we look close, but it is how we build on them that make us who we are. We can collapse in a pile of rubble or keep building and re-purposing ourselves. The old mill I live in was an abandoned derelict before it was repaired. Now it is a new old home, where I, and others before and after me, will store their dreams.
As you look at the challenges you face don't focus on the brick or the scars. A single brick is only part of what makes us strong. If there is a weakness, try to patch it up and move on. It may not be perfect, but it will add to your character. A shiny new wall is far less interesting than the weathered and aged.
Our strength comes from our experiences and faith. If you can keep your perspective, you are far stronger than you think. And in the winter of your life, you can plainly see the beauty that God offers. It is there we will find our enduring strength.