Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Restoring an Old Classic

My father-in-law owns a 1970 Ford Mustang that he is slowly, but surely, restoring back to it’s original glory. It has spent some years in pieces in his garage. It has also spent time under a cover in his driveway. There were also some years when it spent too much time in his friend’s back yard surrounded by overgrown weeds and grass with a primary purpose as a haven for black widow spiders.

Dad has big plans and dreams for this car. It is currently an automatic transmission, but he would like to add “four in the floor” someday. The car, right now, is undriveable not because the engine doesn’t work (it does) but because Dad has taken the dashboard out so that he could replace it with a newer, cleaner one. Truth is, this “classic” car would probably be much closer to restoration if someone hadn’t had to pay for a wedding a few years back or if someone hadn’t been so distracted by a new grandson the last couple of years. My father-in-law takes great pride in that car and will finish restoring it someday because he has invested his time and his money into it.

I have always been impressed by people who take the time to restore cars, homes, antiques or whatever happens to be old or broken down. We like to watch home improvement shows on HGTV or TLC’s What Not to Wear because we get to see the old made new again. ABC’s Extreme Home Makeover is a smash hit television show because homes that were once broken down are made new for the much deserving residents. That show has changed it’s format a bit over the years. It used to be that the show was primarily about the tension and the struggle and the hard work that happened over the course of the makeover.

But isn’t that what restoration is all about? Don’t things have greater value for us when they have been restored? It might be less work for my father-in-law to have someone else do the work on his “classic” car, but it would mean less because he didn’t get the joy of restoring it himself. Restoration is a ton of work, and a lot of times, it isn’t fun, and forces us to do things that may be hard for us to do.

Especially when it comes to the work of restoring old and broken down relationships with one another. The easy thing to do (it seems, in our minds) is to just move on to the next relationship. Because, maybe, just maybe, if there is restoration needed in a relationship it is because something within ourselves is broken. It is too uncomfortable to have to change ourselves. We would rather watch a reality show where someone else is getting fixed than work on our own issues that led to the breakdown of the relationship

Think about it though. Restoring a relationship, any relationship (a marriage, a friendship, someone you work with, someone you disagree with), takes a lot of time to fully restore. It requires the extremely difficult work of selflessness. It forces you to deal with the issues someone else may have with you. It takes up too much time and emotional resources. It drains us, and causes to question if it is really worth it. In the end, I think we have all benefited from going through hard times with someone else. In the end, many of us have a relationship that we can point to that was restored and now has more value to us than any relationship we may have previously had. A relationship that has been fully restored ends up stronger than it was before.

In fact, a restored relationship becomes a Classic. Kind of like that old 1970 Mustang sitting in Dad’s garage.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dealing With Crisis: Fear or Faith?

I’ve been thinking a lot about crisis lately. I’m in the middle of helping some friends deal with struggles in their marriage. My great aunt unexpectedly passed away in her sleep a few weeks ago. And then I read this morning that someone was robbed at gun point and shot in the leg on my street a couple of nights ago. Crisis is also on the minds of many this month because April is the month where Americans remember the tragedies at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech University .

It is easy to start living in fear when things begin going on around us in which we have no control over. There is a huge difference in being prepared and aware of our surroundings as we go about our daily living and between being paralyzed to the point of inaction. I’m pretty sure God doesn’t want us to be afraid.

But, then, how do we handle crisis? In this article, Barry Shafer shares two scriptures that deal with people facing crisis. The first is Daniel 3:16-18:

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king…“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

I can imagine that our crises can feel like fire that is about to consume us, but here, these three young Hebrew men are trusting God to deliver them from their crisis “but even” if He doesn’t they are not going to react out of fear and waiver in their faith. They are facing their personal crisis with faith in the Savior.

The second scripture Shafer directs us to is Acts 12:1-3; 6-11:

It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. … Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. … “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. … When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches…”

Here, two prominent disciples are captured, one killed, one rescued. Perhaps it doesn’t seem fair, like many of our crises often do, but Shafer reminds us that “Isaiah gave us the image of God's grieving people receiving beauty from crisis instead of ashes.”(Isaiah 61:3) We live in an extremely broken world and unexpected, unexplainable things are going to happen to us and cause pain. But what is important is where we take that pain.

In this article, David Olshine quotes from C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader: the story of Eustace, a young boy who becomes a dragon due to having been selfish and stubborn. Oldshine summarizes the scene before quoting Lewis: “Aslan, the story’s Christ figure, takes Eustace to a well to bathe, but the boy can’t get in the well because he’s a dragon. The only solution is to shed his skin like a snake, layer by layer. Later, when Eustace asks Aslan how many more layers he must shed, Aslan undresses him.

“I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you,” Eustace says, “but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back and let him do it. The very first tear he made was so deep I thought it had gone right into my heart.
“When he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve felt…then he…threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious, and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found all the pain had gone…After a bit, the lion took me and dressed me…in these new clothes I’m wearing.””

The pain from crisis can help bring healing to our lives, but again, the important step is where we bring that pain and what our response to it is. Sometimes doctors will break a bone in order to help it heal correctly. Sometimes we need to be broken by our creator in order to heal correctly. Olshine writes that “God often uses painful means to change us. Unless there is some situation to create discomfort, people often reject change” and later that “the pain of change is better than the pain of being unable to change.”

It is important that as we go through crisis that we trust God to deliver us while also leaving room for Him to allow the pain of crisis to help us grow and change so that we can experience His salvation. Bring your crisis to the cross and leave it there for God to deal with.