(This is the last of a series of thoughts sparked by the heartbreaking events at New Life Church, Colorado Springs, regarding former pastor Ted Haggard.)
I can still remember the day I sold my ’64 Mercury Comet (Caliente) to a young man in Muskegon, Michigan. That car was destined to be the family’s project the next winter. In its future waited complete disassembly, replacement of worn parts & dried-out gaskets, new paint, carpet, upholstery -the works- in a thourough off-the-frame rebuild. Nobody asked the car if we could take it apart. Its new owner decided. His dad’s beautiful maroon ’49 Mercury convertible and his uncle’s navy blue ’34 Ford drew praise and admiring looks from all who saw those cars. Seeing them could have given the Comet hope for its future I suppose, but the younger Mercury knew nothing of them when the young man wrote me his check. The ’64 had a long, silent winter ahead of it — on its way to a brighter future.
If you watch This Old House or programs like it, you’ve seen the transformation that results from skill, hard work, and careful attention to detail. Deterioration, decay and disrepair are pulled out of the house to make room for the restorative work. It takes time. It’s messy. It’s hard work. It’s expensive. If houses had nerves, it would undoubtedly hurt.
When arteries around the heart close in on themselves and threaten to stop functioning -or do- the heart finds itself the object of serious, urgent work while stints or transplanted blood vessels are brought in to restore the heart’s ability to function the way it needs to. And heart surgery DOES hurt.
- My ’64 Mercury didn’t decide to be restored. It’s new owner made the call.
- Old houses don’t ask for old work to be ripped out and replaced with new, the owner decides.
- The heart doesn’t sign the release forms. The patient, the heart’s owner does.
Similarly when a pastor —when any Christian— is overcome by sin, the godly around him or her have a choice (hopefully they see it as an obligation). We need to restore. And we need to be careful of the hazards.
In the cases of restoration I’ve observed (and I wish there were more to observe!) the decision to restore nearly always occurs before the one overcome has the desire for it. Sometimes it happens before the wanderer even knows there’s a need to turn around!
I remember an elder in our church standing with me at my desk as we made a phone call, asking to meet with one such man. “I am so sick of losing these! We are not going to lose this one. We’re going after him!” It wasn’t without work -and pain- and hours of good counsel, but he is today walking in fellowship, his marriage and family intact, his ministry moving forward again. Praise God for that elder’s resolve, expressed even before there was a hint of repentance.
If it’s you…
When you find yourself well off the highway, up to your axles in mud (or drifting snow) and someone appears up above on solid ground asking if they can help, a decision has already been made. “Let’s help them back onto the right path.” And that’s precisely how the New Living Translation renders Galatians 6.1 . When you’re the one in trouble, yours is an either-or choice. The decision to restore has already been made by somebody else and yours is to decide whether to submit to the efforts on your behalf or not. You let them hook on to you – or not. Yours is not to decide if they should use a chain, a rope, or tow strap. You accept what they have. You don’t get to decide if you get help from an import, a Chevy, Ford, or Dodge; two-wheel-drive, or 4WD. It’s a basic choice: accept their help or reject it.
Restoration is done to you and for you
not with your help.
To be restored is not the same as being given a second chance. A second chance usually means I’m being given another opportunity to prove I can do it. Anyone with half-an-ounce of pride left will jump at a second chance. But that’s not usually what the person needs.
If we’re honest with ourselves, second-chances usually result in second self-efforts resulting in repeat behaviors, especially when the Lord’s internal rework is not yet complete. I’ve been there, perhaps you have too. I remember talking on the phone to a friend on firm footing. I needed his help again and was this-close to calling it quits and caving in to defeat. But his words in my ear pressed hope back into me. “There’s still enough rope to pull you out. Just hold on. That’s all you’ve got to do. We’ll do the rest.” He was right.
If you’re concerned about a brother or sister who needs intervention and restoration, it’s likely your decision to help him or her will come before their repentance is complete, perhaps even before they know their peril has caught your attention and you’re concerned for them. Be quietly confident. Be careful, but be bold. It’s a remarkable party you’ll incite when that friend or family member repents!
If you’re the one in distress and someone appears offering to help, I only have two words for you: Say YES! There is hope and peace ahead if you’ll relenquish that strangle-hold on your pride and take hold of the hand reaching out to you.
Restoration is painful, messy and sometimes lengthy, but it brings the Lord honor.
- For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life!
- In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
- Psalm 143.11 NES
To: Follow-up article – “Are You Still Praying…?“