Reflections on a Word: Restoration

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It seems like just a few months ago I chose this word for 2013. This crazy year has rushed by. I try to balance my life so that busyness does not interfere with reflection, meditation, relationships, and other ways that I retain my sanity. While I’ve had stretches of time during the year to think, pray, and focus on what life is really about, they mostly came at a time when I had to make big decisions. Everything this year seemed monumental: loss, new beginnings, surprise detours. Where was restoration in 2013?

In December, I make it a habit to look back on my year through the lens of the word I’ve chosen, so here are a few thoughts on both:

I live in this world. In all honesty, I am not assured that I am only “passing through” as the old hymn declares. Despite my deep belief that there is a heaven, I don’t know whether it will be up, around, or right here on earth. There are places in scripture that allude to the possibility that we might be standing in the place where we will spend eternity. Maybe so, maybe not. What I do know is that God carefully, thoughtfully, and joyfully created this world and everything in it. He delights in it, yet at the same time experiences sorrow at the brokenness that has entered His creation. I see that brokenness all around me, yet I am not dismayed by it. Instead, I am increasingly aware that if I desire to be the kind of Christ-follower that I claim to be, then it is my privilege to reflect God’s desire to restore brokenness here on earth.

I’m a fixer, which is not a brag, but an admission. But I’m not the kind of fixer that works the knots out of tangled necklaces. That takes patience, of which I have little. I hand those things to Kyle. I’m the kind of fixer who wants high-speed, quick turnaround solutions that allow me to get back to business. If I’m not careful, I’ll run at that high-speed to solve a problem or resolve an issue, or (bad idea, don’t try this…) fix a person until I crash land. It’s happened. But during 2013, I was able to take enough time to listen and learn a little about the kind of restoration that God invites me to join him in. This is the kind of restoration that takes endurance, patience, faith, and heaping amounts of love. It’s the kind of restoration that believes people are not projects, but precious souls that are starving for honest, real relationships. Me, I’d rather make someone a project – complete with a proposed solution, timeline, high expectations, and a measurable goal. That is not restoration. That is control. And my mantra in this season of my life is “You control nothing and no one, so quit trying.” Restoration gives up control and replaces it with the harder task of loving people. Oh, and if you just skimmed that sentence I’ll state it another way: You and I find it easier to try and control someone than to really love them.

Restoration is the outward manifestation of love for God’s creation. When I chose this word last December, the mental picture was the man who gets up every morning and walks along the side of the busy road picking up all the trash and debris that has accumulated overnight. It’s a never-ending job, but the end result is not the “fixing” of the roadside. It’s the act of restoring beauty, if even for a moment. We all know that we can do the hard work of love with no guarantee that things won’t get incredibly messed up again. It’s not a quick-fix. Instead, it’s the tangled necklace that requires quiet patience. It’s the grassy roadside that will most likely get trashed again. But restoration means that we keep working to make things beautiful again.

I’m still reflecting on this word. Still trying to discover what it looks like in a given day. Today, it was the act of apologizing when I felt like ranting. Some days it’s giving an encouraging word instead of a lecture, or standing up and speaking truth, even when my voice shakes. And then, there are the days when restoration is working toward justice for those who live in poverty because it just seems like what Jesus might care about. But these are only my feeble attempts to make the world a more beautiful place because I love the world’s Creator. The real restoration happens inside my heart when I am reminded that God loves me without my doing anything to earn, deserve, or keep it. I am restored every day by the knowledge that God is completely pleased with me no matter how good or bad I am. And then, I have the freedom to look at the world and practice this restoration.

The year is almost over and it’s time for me to choose a new word. Every year builds: Descending leads to restoration, which leads to a deeper, wider life. Which causes me to wonder, can one choose two words for the year?

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