Mark reminded us on Sunday morning, that God not only gives us salvation; He restores us (see Ps 23:3, Ps 41:3, Ps 53:6). I have been musing on the art of restoration this week, learning vital lessons from this summer’s decorating spree…

  1. Things often look worse before they look better

Restoration has an end goal in sight, a goal of something beautiful and whole, restored and in better shape than when we started, but in order to reach that goal, there is often a tearing down that has to be done which looks far from beautiful. I am about to have a leaking radiator fixed, but the problem (the leaking pipe) is hidden from sight, so in order to solve the problem, a wall has to be knocked into and a huge amount of mess created. I’m not looking forward to the mess, but if I want the problem to be solved, I have to put up with a temporary mess in order to have a restored radiator. Sometimes, we feel like our lives are getting worse, not better, but God, in the business of making ‘all things bright and beautiful, wild and colourful’ (Rend Collective, ‘The Artist’), sometimes has to allow this process before we can be fully restored. It’s a mistake to look at a project before it’s completed and judge the final picture from the mid-term mess. Phil 1:6 reminds us that we’re all works in progress which God will bring to completion.

2. You can’t cut corners if you want true restoration

I was amazed at the amount of preparation work and unseen work that are necessary in decorating a room properly. No one ultimately can see the rubbing down, sanding, priming, undercoating and first coats of paint which go into decorating, but they see the finished sheen and even walls. So often, we want the ‘finished sheen’, but we want it now, without any effort or preparation! I would look at the community room and think it was finished; Ray would then point out all the flaws still present and insist on further work. The end product was worth all the effort. Just as you can’t cut corners if you want the final product to look good, the end result simply cannot look that good without the unseen work before it. It’s worth keeping the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures of any job to remind us of this!

IMG_1920IMG_20773. Patience is an absolute essential of restoration

Most of our problems with restoration arise from our impatience. We want to cut corners because we are impatient. We are in a hurry to reach our final destination. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit, however; Eccl 7:8 reminds us ‘the end of a matter is better than its beginning’, but to reach that end, we need perseverance, endurance and patience. God is patient (see Rom 2:4) and is prepared to spend inordinate amounts of time (in our eyes!) working on His projects. He’s in nowhere near as great a hurry as we are…

4. The end view determines the process

God’s goal is to make us like Him, working to make us conformed to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29). The end view of decorating the community room was a beautiful room; in order to achieve that end, a great deal of painstaking, back-breaking effort was put in by a large number of people who were motivated by the end view (at that point, unseen.) Sometimes, we go through painful trials and bewildering circumstances in life, but this kind of testing produces perseverance which is needed for us to reach the end goal of maturity (see James 1:1-3). We may not always enjoy the process of sanctification, but the end view (restoration and salvation) is well worth the process!

5. We need vision and strategy to get to the goal

Someone has to see where we’re headed and have a plan how to get there. One without the other leads to frustration. I had a vision of a beautiful room, but no skill or strategy to get there; on the other hand, all the skill in the world achieves nothing if it’s not harnessed to an end goal. Vision and strategy need to work hand in hand, not competing against each other.

6. We need a ‘project manager’

A project manager is needed to ensure that a project is completed to schedule and to budget; in a work context, this is a skilled role, requiring vision, strategy, the ability to communicate well with people and to bring the best out of people and an understanding of what cannot be changed and when compromise is possible. A project manager keeps the end goal in sight and is not distracted by problems or setbacks. All projects, however small, need leaders who will see beyond the mess to the final restoration, who will persevere when it’s easier to give up and who will not be satisfied with anything less than the vision being fulfilled. Sometimes, it’s easier to feel these leaders are slave-drivers, for they ask from us more than we feel able to give, refusing to be content with mediocrity or imperfection. Yet the best leaders lead by example, giving wholeheartedly to their work even as they ask for wholehearted commitment from others. God is our ultimate leader, never losing His focus, never being distracted from this work of restoration, leading always be example (Phil 2:1-11, Heb 12:1-3, Phil 3:12-14), urging us forward and cheering us on.