Thinking about the word restore …

(This is the last of a series of thoughts sparked by the heartbreaking events at New Life Church, Colorado Springs, regarding former pastor Ted Haggard.)

I can still remember the day I sold my ’64 Mercury Comet (Caliente) to a young man in Muskegon, Michigan. That car was destined to be the family’s project the next winter. In its future waited complete disassembly, replacement of worn parts & dried-out gaskets, new paint, carpet, upholstery -the works- in a thourough off-the-frame rebuild. Nobody asked the car if we could take it apart. Its new owner decided. His dad’s beautiful maroon ’49 Mercury convertible and his uncle’s navy blue ’34 Ford drew praise and admiring looks from all who saw those cars. Seeing them could have given the Comet hope for its future I suppose, but the younger Mercury knew nothing of them when the young man wrote me his check. The ’64 had a long, silent winter ahead of it — on its way to a brighter future.

If you watch This Old House or programs like it, you’ve seen the transformation that results from skill, hard work, and careful attention to detail. Deterioration, decay and disrepair are pulled out of the house to make room for the restorative work. It takes time. It’s messy. It’s hard work. It’s expensive. If houses had nerves, it would undoubtedly hurt.

When arteries around the heart close in on themselves and threaten to stop functioning -or do- the heart finds itself the object of serious, urgent work while stints or transplanted blood vessels are brought in to restore the heart’s ability to function the way it needs to. And heart surgery DOES hurt.

  • My ’64 Mercury didn’t decide to be restored. It’s new owner made the call.
  • Old houses don’t ask for old work to be ripped out and replaced with new, the owner decides.
  • The heart doesn’t sign the release forms. The patient, the heart’s owner does.

Similarly when a pastor —when any Christian— is overcome by sin, the godly around him or her have a choice (hopefully they see it as an obligation). We need to restore. And we need to be careful of the hazards.

In the cases of restoration I’ve observed (and I wish there were more to observe!) the decision to restore nearly always occurs before the one overcome has the desire for it. Sometimes it happens before the wanderer even knows there’s a need to turn around!

I remember an elder in our church standing with me at my desk as we made a phone call, asking to meet with one such man.  “I am so sick of losing these! We are not going to lose this one. We’re going after him!” It wasn’t without work -and pain-  and hours of good counsel, but he is today walking in fellowship, his marriage and family intact, his ministry moving forward again. Praise God for that elder’s resolve, expressed even before there was a hint of repentance.

If it’s you…

When you find yourself well off the highway, up to your axles in mud (or drifting snow) and someone appears up above on solid ground asking if they can help, a decision has already been made. “Let’s help them back onto the right path.” And that’s precisely how the New Living Translation renders Galatians 6.1 . When you’re the one in trouble, yours is an either-or choice. The decision to restore has already been made by somebody else and yours is to decide whether to submit to the efforts on your behalf or not. You let them hook on to you – or not. Yours is not to decide if they should use a chain, a rope, or tow strap. You accept what they have. You don’t get to decide if you get help from an import, a Chevy, Ford, or Dodge; two-wheel-drive, or 4WD. It’s a basic choice: accept their help or reject it.

__________________________

Restoration is done to you and for you

not with your help.

__________________________

To be restored is not the same as being given a second chance. A second chance usually means I’m being given another opportunity to prove I can do it. Anyone with half-an-ounce of pride left will jump at a second chance. But that’s not usually what the person needs.

If we’re honest with ourselves, second-chances usually result in second self-efforts resulting in repeat behaviors, especially when the Lord’s internal rework is not yet complete. I’ve been there, perhaps you have too. I remember talking on the phone to a friend on firm footing. I needed his help again and was this-close to calling it quits and caving in to defeat. But his words in my ear pressed hope back into me. “There’s still enough rope to pull you out. Just hold on. That’s all you’ve got to do. We’ll do the rest.” He was right.

If you’re concerned about a brother or sister who needs intervention and restoration, it’s likely your decision to help him or her will come before their repentance is complete, perhaps even before they know their peril has caught your attention and you’re concerned for them. Be quietly confident. Be careful, but be bold. It’s a remarkable party you’ll incite when that friend or family member repents!

If you’re the one in distress and someone appears offering to help, I only have two words for you: Say YES! There is hope and peace ahead if you’ll relenquish that strangle-hold on your pride and take hold of the hand reaching out to you.

Restoration is painful, messy and sometimes lengthy, but it brings the Lord honor.

For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life!
In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
Psalm 143.11 NES

To:  Follow-up article –  “Are You Still Praying…?


5 Replies to “Thinking about the word restore …”

  1. Phil

    PS. While I feel strongly about the “to you, for you, not with your help” in today’s essay, I recognize the value of what many would call a second chance. 🙂 That’s fine, I just prefer to look at them as new opportunities, that’s all.
    SO much is different after one has been restored, A believer’s basic motivation for acts of service are frequently completely renovated. Everything tends to feel new and fresh even in familiar settings.
    Wow – I commented on my own thoughts. What’s that tell you? 😀

  2. Mag

    Great word picture and analogy. Our body has a policy to go after those who need restoration, send others, pray it through, work together and try to support. It sometimes requires a step of “letting go and letting God” if they have hardened their heart beyond any ability to hear truth. They can wear you out if you don’t at some point trust God to love them more than you do…it takes honoring them, loving them, passing the baton to others when you are tired, and referring to professionals at times. In all that, continuing to show positive regard and favor and hold out hope is critical to them. Talking about them, judging them, rejecting them, getting bitter…none of these are helpful, though we all must battle them in view of God’s mercy and grace.

    Great thoughts. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Mag

    Been thinking on this.

    I think that at a point, with people (as opposed to cars), there comes a point where restoration requires a response from you to continue. I’ve seen people beyond restoration because they valued their sin/control/drama more than the restoration offered.

    Just a challenge thought there on that one. Great stuff to mull here, keep up the great work! I like “thinking blogs”.

  4. Phil

    Thanks, Mag, you’re absolutely right!

    There’s a difference between
    Cleansed, forgiven and right with God again (1 John 1.9)
    —and—
    Self-controlled, upright, living godly (see Titus 1.12)

    Moments after someone pulls a person up out of the muck and mire and back onto the right path he or she has one significant choice to make. Am I going to keep living like I was? or am I going to change a couple things (or let God change them – better chance of it sticking) so this doesn’t happen again?! You make an excellent point!

    Disobedience resulted in distance, separation, even the isolation of discipline.

    Obedient living is reason to rejoice. But when the hurt is deep and the damage severe, people need to see ongoing obedient living for respect and confidence to return.

    Many call these second-chances, and that’s fine, I prefer to look at them as new opportunities with much to gain. It’s the “prove your repentance was real” phase.

    This is often the loneliest part of the journey back, and many of those miles —dare I say most of them— are ridden alone. God is there in the silence, though, and the restored “approved workman” status (2 Tim 2.15) is worth the effort. Totally worth the effort.

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