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.
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