The following is a Google satellite image of the new site:
I mean, just look at this. Compared to the beauty of even the most urban of temples, this parking lot is absolutely destitute. An empty, dirty place that who knows how many people pass through, or pass by, without taking a second look. And having been to the City of Brotherly Love dozens of times and probably having passed by this very spot, I'd say I've been guilty of the same thing. It's almost hard to imagine that a nasty old parking lot, a place for cars and telephone wires to pass through, could ever become holy ground. But that's exactly what will happen at this spot by the time the temple is built.
Which makes me wonder how many times I made that mistake while looking at my own life, because of my past.
I had a parking lot life once--one where people would come and go as they pleased, usually throw some trash on the ground, then leave again. "I mean sure, there's tons you can do with a vacant lot," I'd think to myself "but just look at you--why would anyone want a life like yours?" The way people teased and taunted me all throughout my childhood, plus the hand I was dealt through my family's choices and circumstances, left me feeling the way this picture looks.
I remember praying often for God to take me away from all of that--to help me fly far away, to know something better. Something more. I wasn't even sure what I wanted--I didn't have the words to ask for it--but surely whatever it was would be better than where I was and what I had. I asked and asked, but never really dared to hope that my prayers would be answered, or that my life would change.
But Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ were at work in my life from the first prayer I ever said, guiding me towards people that would show me better ways of living. By the time the true message of the gospel came into my life, He had already been gutting out the filth, cleaning up the messes I and others had made, and He healed wounds I thought would be like nasty oil slicks on the asphalt of my conscience for the rest of my life. Jesus Christ, the carpenter that He is, knows all too well that every life is a living house. C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity that :
"God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what he is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised.
But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is he up to? The explanation is that he is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.
You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but he is building up a palace. He intends to come and live in it himself."
Which is the miracle of that parking lot picture--because there will come a day when it will be healed and made into a beautiful mansion of eternity, like this one:
Image courtesy of ldschurchtemples.com
Image courtesy of ldschurchtemples.com
Seeing what my Father in Heaven has done makes this new opportunity in Philadelphia all the more exciting. I'm already hoping to take my parents to the open house so they can see how incredibly beautiful the temples are on the inside. By doing so, it's my hope they'll understand why I go so often. I hope they'll feel the same peace and joy that comes into my life every time I go because Heavenly Father is there. I hope they'll see for themselves that by living the way I do, His Spirit dwells with me and builds me into a sacred and holy temple. I want them to know that Heavenly Father is eager to build them up too, to bring a peace, protection, and a surety into their lives that they've never experienced before because it doesn't exist in any other place.
If they could catch the smallest glimpse of just one of these things, they'd understand why I want them to consider what the Church offers, to share in these experiences with me. These ordinances we do are all about family--sealing us together so we can live together with God for time and all eternity. And if the price of that blessing for all of us means I have to step away from them, to work for us in ways they cannot see, and endure in hope that they'll understand some day, that's what I'll do. I've come to appreciate that eternal life for me would hardly be eternal happiness if my family wasn't there with me. But they cannot have those blessings of eternity if they choose not to give their lives over to God, and He won't force them into such a choice. He'll offer His gift to them, but they have to receive Him in order to have His joy.
Our Savior Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Light. None come unto the Father except they accept the mercies of His Son, and give away all their sins to know Him. I testify that Heavenly Father lives, He loves us with a greater love than we could ever imagine. He desires to have us back to live with Him, so He sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins, which allows us to repent of our mistakes and to be forgiven. Through His forgiveness, we can return to our Heavenly Father with great rejoicing and a fullness of new heart. I look forward to that day, and I trust that if I will be obedient, this journey will end joyfully somehow. I believe this with all of my heart, with the certainty of saints, in the holy name of Jesus Christ, my beloved Savior and Redeemer.