Dismantle What You Must


About two hours from our city there is a provincial park that houses an old dam that has been abandoned for nearly 70 years. In 1951, a more efficient dam was built and this old one was shut down and partly dismantled. There are endless hiking paths to explore in and through the old dam and it seemed like the perfect place to spend a Sunday afternoon.

I felt like I was walking through the set of a post-apocolyptic movie. Rusted out turbines, crumbling walls of abandoned industry and nature, the new-growth of nature, pushing through every crack and crevice. And the sound of water rushing over rocks. The sound of life, despite the ruins.

It wasn’t a movie; it was real. And it was the perfect reflection of my life.

My life is in renovation mode. My house, my faith, my relationships, the core of my own self. All of it. It’s good and messy and difficult and freeing all at once and sometimes it can be overwhelming. That’s how I ended up on top of an abandoned hydro-electric dam.

I was overwhelmed by all of the hard, everyday work of change and I needed a break, so I packed up the family and we went on an adventure.

As we walked along the path, my 19-year-old son said something that caused me to see this old dam in a new way:

It’s funny how something that was so vital at one time, could be so easily forgotten. A whole community and way of life was built around this place and now it’s just a ruin and the community is growing somewhere else.”

In that moment, the old, decaying and crumbling walls became evidence of the internal work I’ve been doing over the last few years. The life that was flourishing all around the ruins became the hope of the flourishing of my own soul.

You see, this park isn’t just an abandoned dam on a barren river’s edge. It’s a forest, a meadow and a river on the Canadian Shield. It is home to some of the biggest grasshoppers I’ve ever seen and there are dozens of garter snakes in the marsh nearby. Birds fly overhead continuously and there is evidence of deer, bears and many woodland creatures all over the park. Life is flourishing all around the ruins.

It is sad and difficult when something that once was so dear and so vital becomes obsolete. When you grow past the things you once thought defined you, it can be deeply unsettling. When you begin to dismantle these monuments of the past, in hopes of rebuilding something useful, oftentimes you discover the pieces don’t fit as you’d hoped and you’ve actually made a giant mess where order had once been.

Don’t panic. This is the way of things. This is the way of growth and life and freedom. This is the way to flourish.

Dismantle what you must.

Abandon what cannot and should not be saved.

Give space and time for something new to grow.


Just breathe.

As I walked the paths and climbed the rocks of this park with my family, I noticed how many trees, bushes and flowers were growing in the crevices of the old structure. Back in the day, these cracks would have caused worry and upset, as they would have been an indication of a breach in the wall. But now, these crevices are expanding for the new life that is sprouting in and through them.

How beautiful is that!

This dam is a perfect metaphor for what is happening in my own life right now. There are things I’d built in my life, ideas, beliefs and an identity, that are no longer relevant. These monuments to my own goodness no longer serve me or who I am becoming. And yet, for far too long, I ran around, trying to fill each crack in the wall for fear of what would become of me if I did not have these strong walls to contain me.

But, as I’ve said before, I am the river. I am meant to flow and grow and experience life. I was never meant to be contained. I was made to move and change and expand and bring forth life, even in the most unlikely of places.

Maybe my life is not the abandoned dam, after all. It is the river unleashed.