Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. Psalm 71:19-21
Oh how real and honest and raw and hopeful God’s word always is! God is the author and perfector of our faith, which includes making us see troubles, many and bitter, as very essential elements in the restoration process. Today Walter commented on the reality (or quoted somebody?) that we who identify with a crucified savior are bound to feel the splinters of the cross. From the promise made in the Garden, that the Redeemer would be bruised and that new birth would be accompanied by great pain, the hope of restoration was never contradicted by the presence of heart ache, troubles or seeming loss. The crushing of the head of the serpent, and the eventual and exhaustive victory of righteousness and beauty over toxic self-absorption and decay, is certain.
I have not had the much needed benefit of writing regularly in recent weeks because we have been totally consumed with the restoration of what will soon be our new home. The bank calls the neighborhood “highly distressed”, but we have found it warm, welcoming and beautiful. The current reality is somewhere between the two, a little like those of us “in Christ”. I find my own current reality somewhere between the two! I’ve only once included pictures in my writing, mostly because I’m lazy and not very technologically advanced. But I want to show you the outside.
We have worked tirelessly on the inside of this house for a few weeks now. First we filled and then removed about five large black bags of trash from inside the house. Then we began removing baseboards, moldy cabinets, carpet saturated with dog urine and who knows what else as well as some pretty awesome light fixtures circa 1984. The house appears to have been treated roughly and attended to sloppily, (with a great affection for nails rather than screws which leave gaping holes when removed!) At the same time, we’ve been cleaning and painting and sheet-rocking and reflooring. Terrell and I stayed until 1am Saturday night and woke up feeling swollen, sore and absolutely worn out. Do you know how the front of the house looks at this moment? Well, it looks about the same (not including a very dramatic power washing by my dad last weekend.) But, the point is, the change is hard, it is slow and it is not visible from the outside. But it is happening!
“This is what the LORD says: ‘You say about this place, “It is a desolate waste, without men or animals.” Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither men nor animals, there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the LORD, saying, “Give thanks to the LORD Almighty, for the LORD is good; his love endures forever.” For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the LORD. Jer. 33:10-11
The captivity of God’s people was as much about their restoration as their seasons of feasting and celebration. The story of Israel, which is the story of the Redeemer, is the story of my redemption even as I watch it unfold in this little house.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10
His restoration of me did not begin because He noticed something beautiful in me, but His beauty in me will become visible through the process of His restoration. His suffering and obedience on my behalf, followed by His transformative work in my heart, applies His righteousness while at the same time removing my moldy parts. This process of sanctification is not validated or even obviously evidenced by external snapshots, but it is happening!
He takes the deserted and makes it flourish. He takes the rejected and calls them chosen. He takes the forgotten and declares His remembrance. He takes the orphan and calls her His child. He takes the ugly and despised and makes it beautiful and cherished. The house is contributing nothing to this restoration process, but is receiving the benefits of our hard work and slowly displaying it over time. May I too find rest, peace, solid hope and great joy in the confidence that He who began a great work in me is the One who will be faithful to bring it to completion. And may I begin to look past the outer facade of those around me, and peer through their windows, to see the restoration as it is indeed happening by His work inside them as well.
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Sam. 16:7