Resto Work

My life has been so dry and empty for the past few years.  I’ve been seeking God’s will, but fully knowing that it’s me that’s out of step.  Somehow, I’m not seeing what He’s showing me, even though I sense it’s clearly before my face.  Two men keep coming to mind, both car restoration specialists, as holding the clues to what it is I need.

Then today, I was reading a newsletter that opened the door.  It was about  counseling college students in their career paths.  The author said that Jesus, when asked what life was all about, answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and then, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”   God created a perfect world, with perfect inhabitants, but they chose to not follow His plan.  The consequences of that choice are still being felt.  She used a Hebrew phrase, Tikkun Olam, meaning “repair the world,” to sum up God’s plan for the world now.   All of a sudden, it came together.

We are in the business of restoration.

All of us.  That’s our duty here.  We were initially put in the Garden to tend it, but when we got evicted, the tending we were to do took on a whole new depth.  There would be weeds, thistles, and pestilence to abate.  In my world today, that would equate to rust, deterioration, and illness.  We are in the business of restoring God’s order to the world, and any little bit that I can do in my sphere to contribute to that end is the Lord’s will for my life.

How many people couldn’t use some restoring?  A little buffing out of scratches or maybe all new paint and vinyl is necessary.  Others need a complete, body-off restoration, including replacement of incorrect parts or fabrication of deteriorated panels.  Just like cars, many people have been worked too hard, broken, or just neglected.  They need someone to take the effort to put them in the garage, apply some personalized attention, and point them back to the road to continue in productivity.

And no matter how small the job, restoration is dirty, hard work.  Years ago, my dad’s beloved Buick sustained a dent in the front fender.  It wasn’t big, but on that gleaming chariot, it was obvious.  Saturday morning found Dad and me sitting in the wheel well with a ball-peen hammer.  I couldn’t believe what Dad was thinking.  Every time metal hit metal, I cringed.  But I discounted the worth of the master’s hand.  When we were through, it was perfect again; not even the paint had cracked from the procedure.

But there’s one little detail in this that is easily overlooked.  In order to do the job properly, the master must fully assess the extent of  damage in order to plan his steps.  Then the bad must be removed.  Nakedness must be exposed before restoration can begin.  He must search out and remove every dent, blown gasket, and molecule of rust that may be hiding underneath.

Damn, it hurts.  I know my quarter-panel is dented and rusty, and ugly as all hell.  My attitude stinks.  But I must let myself be exposed to the Master’s trained eye in order for any work to begin.  A wax job is never going to make this good.  I have to let it all go.  I have to submit to the cutting torch,  wrench, and that wicked sander before I’m allowed into the paint booth to be made beautiful again.  I have to completely entrust myself into His hands, no matter how scared I am or how much his touch hurts.  It is for good.

Different people, in different ways, have reached out hands to help me through my time on the rack.  They’ve patted me on the back, spoken new ideas and ways of thinking in my ear, and inspired me to hang in there.  How many have prayed for me?  I’ll never know, but I’ve felt the effects.  Probably the biggest thing I’ve gleaned is a picture of what health and a new life looks like.  As I see gleaming running boards where once there were rusty holes, fresh canvas where skeletal rags once hung, new carpet where field mice once nested, I begin to see what I can become.  What, with a little care, I could now help another to achieve.  These men have merely asked me questions, let me watch their work, and been my friends to sustain me while the Master worked.  There is nothing there I cannot give to another.

And I see it now.  I am surrounded by destruction and defeat.  My plans to live the quiet, country life have turned into the death of more animals than I care to count, the demolition of my dreams, and the decay of my family relationships.   I must give up these that I have been gripping so tightly from the pain.  It hurts to let go and bring the wounds into the open air, but the dirt must be cleaned away and new, better experiences brought in.  As long as I cling to my festered mess like some hard-won badge, new life cannot take its place.   I must submit to the Master’s hand.  He will reclaim order from the chaos, restore and redeem this forsaken little Pinto to its rightful glory.

The author of the newsletter that sparked this revelation mentioned something else intriguing.  She said that modern Americans translate the beginning of the world as being nothing.  God created something from nothing.  But the ancients saw the beginning as chaos, a formless, dark expanse of no meaning.  God separated the water from the land, pulled trees and animals out of the land and sprouted fish in the waters.  My daughter sits next to me, sorting her shells and beach rocks.  She is taking a mass of complete jumble from her bucket, sorting colors and shapes, and then combining them in new ways to make a beautiful display.  It is lovely and orderly.  She has learned about clams, mussels, and oysters, looked at Mama’s pearls and planned a trip to the seafood counter at the market.  When she was ready, she stacked them purposefully in a display jar to decorate her dresser.

Here’s the purpose of life, right here.  I’m to sort out the jumble that surrounds me, pull out what I need, reform what doesn’t work, and create order from chaos by adding my personal touch.   I thank God for using you, and my daughter, to show me how to restore order to my life.   I know restoration’s your job, but when it’s me you’ve put new life into, I’m deeply grateful for the new lease on life.

Now if only some of these cars could give us a glimpse into their glory days….  But more importantly, who will grace their seats tomorrow?

This life therefore is not righteousness but growth in righteousness;
not health but healing;
not being but becoming;
not rest but exercise.

We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it.
The process is not finished, but it is going on.
This is not the end, but it is the road.
All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.

– Martin Luther

Photo courtesy of Gilmore Custom Services




8 thoughts on “Resto Work

  1. Sounds like Mama needs a project car to tinker on.

    Through the process of it’s restoration you can obtain many wonderful things.
    Firstly an item to focus on that is not yourself, or a member of the family… an old screwed up car wont talk back, it asks things of you but in a way that humans cant. It will listen, it will appreciate your efforts and it will teach you at the same time. You can build some pride and self esteem while you turn it from trash to treasure (a good modeling lesson for the kiddos) and in the end you will have something you can enjoy on the nice spring evenings.

    Having a project like this is great therapy. Its far better than any booze or pill, cheaper than the guy with the couch and the notepad, and when it is done you can take it for a ride to the local drive-in and get compliments and pats on the back that we rarely get in our grown up lives.

    Through these connections to strange chunks of metal and times past…we can connect to God. We can fill our souls, we can work with the hands and mind that God gave us, we can make friends, we can test ourselves, we can teach those around us that good honest physical labor can bring about great rewards.

    Stop thinking so much…get out in the garage and build something. Just you and a hammer and a rusty bit of junk…bang out those problems and sand smooth those ripples in the psyche and you will feel better. Life can be a pain in the ass…but that ass feels a lot better when it is sitting in the seat of a hot rod.


    • No, Randy knows me well. He’s right in that I’ve got too much time to think, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing for a writer. I’ve finally found what I truly love to do, just as he has always known that his place is in the garage. I’ve known since I was in high school that I wanted to write, but never had anything to say. He and I will always disagree on something, but always laugh it off at the end of the day. I envy his ability to make lemonade out of every situation he finds himself in; it’s taking me longer to wrestle through things, but pray I will one day prove to have developed my own secret recipe.

  2. I may have missed the point…I often do, but what I was trying to do was to MAKE a point.

    It seems to me by my limited keyboard view that Brenda is going through a rough spot. I think it is a spot that we all go through at this time in our mid-lives where we take a look around and realize that we are not where we dreamed we would be. I doubt that ANYONE is ever exactly where they dreamed they would be during their formative years, but that is not the point…the point is we all hit the wall and look around and question everything. It is the time when people do stupid things, they take up hang gliding, they leave their families and they pursue those “dreams” only to realize down the road that they gave up some of the best things they ever had and I dare say, they all have regrets.

    God runs us through the maze of life and challenges us and blesses us along the way. We need to keep a clear head about it and fight our battles with our morals intact and not stray from the path no matter how hard the struggle.

    We need things that make us feel good though, stuff that is just for “us”. Satisfying tasks and challenges and opportunities to meditate and think away from our normal daily grind and away from the demands of family and career. We all know Brenda has a very full plate, it is an admirably wonderful full plate of course, but the weight of it seems to be getting to her as it gets to us all. The girl needs something “hers”.

    Maybe my miss of the point is that the writing IS her escape… but if in doing it , it requires wallowing in the mental battleground of life dreams and harsh realities, is it really an escape?

    I think it’s pretty obvious to me that Brenda needs some chrome to polish probably more-so now than at any time in her past. She wants it..she craves it, and the images of the cleanest Pinto known to man flash before her mental eye often enough that it comes out in writing regularly (or at least to me).

    I think through that polishing process, the restoration of self and soul may be easier to achieve than by delving into the heart and mind in order to express ourselves.

    God wants us to enjoy our lives and be happy. He also calls us to use the talents that he blessed us with to help make the world a better place. A well written book, a properly restored old car, a child that grows to know that Mom and Dad truly cared…wherever our talents are, we need to get them out. And in the process of releasing them, I feel that our personal restorations can take place and in the process we can get closer to God.

    After re-reading the post and my reply (and this reply as well) I realize that I am probably still missing the point, and for that I apologize. Im a garage guy…greasy fingers, bloody knuckles, the smell of stale gas and fresh paint….perhaps a bit thick at times…but thats just the way it’s gonna be.

    Blah blah blah…. I need to get a wrench in my hand pronto…I’ve been thinking too much again! Grunt grunt.

    Or maybe I need a blog?

  3. So now that your “car” is being restored to as new or better condition, let’s focus on the new way we must care for it. This is important, obviously, as the way it was treated previously resulted in the need for extensive repairs. If you use it the same way, it’ll be ruined in short order.
    (Understand you’ll need to insert the necessary changes to this article to apply this to a person instead of a car, as you go along)
    If you drive it the same way, take it to the same places, park in the usual spots, you know what to expect, the same old problems. Treat it better– Don’t run it into the ground! (again!)
    She’ll need a new maintenance regime too; consider the better quality gas[food], even though it costs more, to keep that motor running smooth. Stay clear of those “miracle in a bottle” treatments, most of them do more harm than good. If you dont plug up the lines in the first place, you wont need the harsh chemicals to flush out the gunk. Careful oil and filter changes, and necessary adjustments (these are outlined in the” manual” [ say Bible]; keep it with the car, it covers about anything you can think of!) are just part of the deal. Another help may be hanging out with some like minded “car” guys, you know, people who have already been through the restoration process, and are doing a good job of taking care of that work of art. I prefer the ones who did the bulk of the work in their own garage, not the ones who stand in other peoples’ garages with “I da’s” and “you shuddas” and no prize of thier own. I would recommend the guy (or gal!) who patiently sticks it out, systematically making sure, consulting the manual, that things are done right. They can be a great help, as not much will surprise them.
    Now, the big stuff MUST be handled by a professional–The Master, as you put it. This way you can be sure it is done right. He has ALL the necessary resources for your project ; nothing is too hard. He can instruct you as you go, too, and will happily help you with any doubts, questions, or problems that may arise. There are bound to be some- especially at first. That is totally normal, what we call “getting the bugs out”. Don’t be afraid to ASK Him. You can definitely get into big trouble if you’re too shy, or too proud to accept instruction. All the successful “car “people know when to listen to solid teaching, and when to tune out the goof at the donut shop, cruise night, etc. (Yes church!) I mean, heck, if He built it, and wrote the manual, He ought to know how to take care of it, right?! So ASK; and LISTEN! If He says not to do this or that, who cares what you or anyone else thinks–Don’t do it! And remember, some “experts” dont know the first thing about anything- look at their “cars” before even considering their advice (good tree, good fruit).
    And above all, enjoy it! There is nothing worse than a guy who never takes it out of the garage, or even uncovers it for fear of damaging it. Its a car, meant to be driven, right? Then get it out of the garage, and show it to people! What good is all The Master’s work, if it is never put to use? Oh, and its never finished, either, so don’t let that stop you; it will always need something along the way- But you just might encourage someone to pull the tarp off their old junker and…..

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