“People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.” – Audrey Hepburn
I don’t have much experience with restoring things. I am impatient and clumsy, so my creativity is better expressed in writing or arranging things that other people have made or restored. I am in awe of those with the talent to transform an old ugly chair or an antique automobile.
In Marshalltown these days, we are thinking much about restoring and reclaiming because of all that has been destroyed or damaged by the tornado. It’s not a hobby this time; it is a desperate need. We are motivated by need and by love for our family, neighbors, and city. We remember the good that was, and we want it back, and even better than before. We have been reminded what a precious thing it is to have electricity and a good roof over our heads. We are digging out of the rubble and gearing up for a rebuilding. God bless all those talented hardworking people who will be putting on new roofs and siding, installing new windows, building new buildings and resurrecting businesses.
However, even more than all that, we have been reminded of how precious people are. My home was barely touched, tho’ less than a mile from the worst of it. So I escaped again from knowing what that is like on a personal level. I have thought what it might have been like if we had lost anyone I know, anyone I love. Thousands of people felt the fear of whether their loved ones were ok and what could have happened. We seem to be hugging each other a little more lately. We are certainly seeing a flood of neighborly love in all the relief efforts. The truth is, each person is loved by someone. For sure, each person is handmade and loved by God.
It’s easy to say that everyone is valuable, but difficult to live out sometimes. We all know that certain people are more difficult to love for one reason or another. And not everyone has been neighborly in this ordeal; some have been the opposite. Then sometimes we are just slow to see the positives in people. We cast them off or ignore them like junk at a yard sale. But at yard sales, once in a while, there’s a person who sees that item you cast off and sees the potential. They know how that item can be restored or remade. They are willing to buy it and to put the time, money, and effort into making something useful and beautiful out of it.
You know what I’m going to say next, don’t you? Yes, that is how God sees us. He knows the “real” us. He knows the worst about us, but he also knows who made us, how we got here and how he can redeem and restore us. I know he has gently and faithfully worked on me over the years. First, he brought me to himself, which is quite a dramatic change in itself, such a change that Jesus called it being “born again”(John 3:3-8). Since then he has been chipping and sanding away at the rough edges and the lies I have believed that have caused so much damage. He has redefined so much of my life and who I am, gradually bringing healing and transformation (Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 3:18).
Sometimes I try to run away from his chisel, but then I see again how much I need it and how much he loves me.
This renewing process increases our awareness of his desire to restore others as well. I sometimes catch a little glimpse of myself in someone else and remember that they are like me, battered by hurts, may be bolstered by pride, broken by sin, but precious to God, full of potential, a blessing even in brokenness. It’s like God sometimes takes my hand or turns my face to them, wanting me to understand how much he loves them. “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me” (Mt 25:40). Some people think that God is distant and uncaring about individuals or only cares about special individuals. But scripture says we are all created “in his image,” an image he wants to “restore” in each one (James 3:9-10, 2 Peter 3:9). Everything else will pass away, but God is eternal and human souls will go on into eternity. These that he made are what he cares about. He will even disrupt their entire life if that’s what it takes to get through.
What barrier might God need to “get through” to get to you? Maybe it looks like a mess, like a blown down house. Or maybe it looks orderly and grand like a gated estate. But if you’re feeling like maybe there’s some work that needs to be done, know that God is passionately about your restoration and reviving. And those others in your life… He is passionate about them too. We can’t fix people or help with every need, but we can treat people like they are valuable. We can receive grace from God and pass it on to others. We can point out their worth and potential. We can ask God to show us who we can come alongside in his repairing and rebuilding process of who they are.
The phrase “Marshalltown Strong” that we are all chanting is great. I love the emphasis on community. But I also know that we are strong when we are relying on God’s strength, just as we will love better when relying on his love. I pray that we will look to him for that and extend this compassion for each other on into the future and into the things that really matter, like the health of who we are as people, mentally, emotionally, physically, and especially spiritually. In God’s eyes, the greatest treasure to restore in Marshalltown is its people.