With few exceptions, my absolute favorite television shows and videos to watch online are the ones that feature restoration. Whether they are rebuilding an old house, restoring a rusted-out hulk of a car, or making antique gizmos and gadgets look and work like brand new, they capture my attention like nothing else.
Even when I was a maintenance guy, the one thing I loved doing more than anything else was what we wrench-turners call bench work. I would happily sit there all day and perform component-level circuit card repair, pneumatic valve restoration, or rebuild a hydraulic pump.
Sure, it was exciting going out on the production floor and making emergency repairs when time was of the essence, but it never compared to the sense of accomplishment I derived from being given the time to be meticulous about the details everyone else took for granted. When I watch someone clean and restore something that others have discarded, I honestly get as much enjoyment from it as if I were doing it myself.
Regardless of the project or the diversity of knowledge, creativity, and skill it takes to do the job, the craftsmen involved all have one thing in common. Hope.
Not wishful thinking, mind you. Genuine hope.
They have a clear vision of the possible results ahead of them because they are masters of their craft. And as such, they know the tools of their respective trades as well as their own strengths and weaknesses. Another thing that true master craftsmen (and women) have in common is their appreciation for other skilled tradesmen. They seek out the advice and help of others and they are willing to both learn and teach what they know.
God is a master at His craft. He loves to restore us. As frustrated as I have gotten with Him, I think half of the stuff He allows in our lives is just so He can fix us. I can’t prove that, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn it when I see Him face to face one day.
The problem is, we are supposed to be His hands and most of our time is spent looking for reasons to reject people. This one offended me, that one has a history I can’t forget. She hid the truth from me, he said something I didn’t agree with.
Blah, blah, blah.
I think we have all been on both sides of that situation more often than we care to remember, but even that is something that He wants to repair.
The next time you go searching for a reason to turn someone away who needs help, abandon a friend who offended you, or even reject the plan God has for your life, I want you to stop and ask yourself the following questions.
Is this how God treats me? Does He see me as disposable because I made a mistake? Is he rejecting me because I upset Him? Is He going to throw me away when I ask for forgiveness?
If you look at another person with disdain because you think they’re unworthy of your time, or the memory of their perceived sin prevents you from embracing them in love, then I am going to be so bold as to say that you need hope. Not only for the other person, but for yourself. And if you reject the hope that God has planned for your life, you aren’t going to find it anywhere else no matter how hard you try.
This is just an opinion based solely upon my own experience, but from decades of listening to the promises of preachers and observing their unmistakably inconsistent results, I think that we lack hope because we don’t understand the nature of the work we are called to do. We aren’t skilled in restoring lives. Sure, we understand the physical and psychological tools that mankind and science have given us, but the use of the spiritual tools of our trade are as unfamiliar to us as a lathe is to a lemur.
So, as our Lord and Savior was often wont to do, I shall use parallel imagery to explain a spiritual principle, but I will add one minor, yet obvious detail.
Imagine that you work in an autobody repair shop, and a customer has just brought in their father’s old car that they want restored. Let’s say it is a 1969 GTO Judge. It has obviously seen better days. The fenders are dented from an accident that happened 30 years ago and it has been parked in a barn ever since. The windshield is shattered, the hood is buckled, the engine block is cracked, the frame is bent, and rust has had its way with the entire car. Mice and a host of other critters have eaten away at and soiled the interior so completely that nothing can be salvaged.
Not a pretty sight. But to the owner and classic muscle car collectors, this goat is highly prized, even in its decrepit state.
Now I want you to imagine that whenever you try to begin repairs, the car horn goes off and you can’t figure out why. It’s like the car is protesting or crying out in pain. Every turn of a wrench, wedging of a prybar, or pulling of a part, the horn cries out in opposition to the treatment the car is receiving. Unable to bear the noise, the workmen (and women) cease their efforts and leave the car unrestored.
My fictional addition was obvious, but so too was its intent.
To put it another way, if we go to the emergency room because of a pain that won’t go away, the first thing the doctor wants to do is touch it. They are trying to figure out the exact location to help them diagnose the problem. What you think is a case of bad gas, might be an appendicitis, a blocked bowel, or even colon cancer. Depending upon what the doctor thinks the problem is, he or she might order lab work, x-rays, or have you prepped for immediate surgery.
If you’ve been crying out for help from heaven, then don’t be alarmed when the person He sends to help touches your pain. Yes, He knows the problem, but you only know its effect. And the pain that you find so offensive might just be His way of letting you know what the root cause is.
Let God work through those whom He has sent to help. When you have doubts about who has been sent to help, then recall your initial reaction to their arrival. That will reveal God’s will. Making you second-guess everything is a sure sign of the devil’s handiwork and he only wants your pain to endure for as long as possible. Don’t listen to him.
We are God’s hands and feet. Not every task He asks us to perform or place He leads us to go will be easy or pleasant, but we have been given the impression (especially by televangelists) that the work of the cross is all puppies and rainbows when it isn’t. It might not even feel rewarding during the performance of it, but the benefits far outweigh the discomforts.
Hebrews 12:2 “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (NKJV)
His joy wasn’t on the cross, it was at a point in time beyond His endurance of the agony and shame it took to redeem humanity. The scripture goes so far as to let us know that Jesus hated what was happening to him. That’s a bit of a paraphrase of the word “despised,” but I did so for the sake of emphasis. What happened to Him on the cross wasn’t pleasant. It was painful, and so too is the work that we must perform sometimes.
We are told to take up our cross daily. But we have thought that just meant forsaking sin or getting forgiveness of it, and that narrow view has caused us to neglect the unpleasantness of the truly restorative work that needs doing. And even though Jesus bore His cross for a time, He needed Simon the Cyrene’s help to complete the task. When He finally reached Golgotha, He didn’t drive those nails into His own hands. He didn’t lift Himself into the hole that held the cross upright, and He didn’t pierce His own side to confirm His death upon it.
From the time he was taken prisoner to the moment of His burial, every unpleasant thing that happened to Him required another’s action for them to occur. Thus, humanity became an unwitting participant in God’s plan for their redemption. Today, we must make an informed choice to take up our cross and allow the work that must take place upon it to happen. It takes a conscious decision by the helpers and the helped. It doesn’t work any other way.
Hope is the earnest, intense expectation of what lay ahead, and it is not only the responsibility of the one whom God sent to help, but also of the person receiving it. A shared vision of the hope that lay ahead gives us a clear picture of the end work and helps us focus beyond the pain that we must endure for a time.
We aren’t inanimate objects, and to my knowledge, emotional restoration can’t be anesthetized, it must be dealt with head-on. We mustn’t act cruelly toward one another, so God imparts a form of mercy that helps ease its passing because the one touching the pain is equally pained by its infliction through empathy.
We should empathize with those whom we are called to help. If we don’t, the work of the cross becomes a cold, callous act that only paints the work upon it with bitterness and shame and nobody will want to endure it.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”
God’s plan for our lives may not be exactly what we envisioned for ourselves, but it is far greater than we could have imagined. Don’t focus on the temporary woes of life. They are the devil’s way of distracting us from the joy of the hope that is just ahead of us on our journey of discovering not only what God has planned for us, but of who He has called us to be.