Saturday, May 16, 2020

Restore {a poem}

“Why do you forget us forever, why do you forsake us for so many days?
Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old-“
Lamentations 5:20-21

The hero of a  favorite novel series
Spies for Israeli intelligence
And restores paintings by Old Masters.
His “cover job” captures the core
Of his character:
Restorer of broken beauty.
Taking great pains,
He swabs away
Centuries of yellowed varnish,
Patches done badly,
All the accretions that hide
The luminous beauty the Master intended.

He views people also
As restoration projects:
Espying goodness, virtue,
Some small gleam of purity of heart,
And creating opportunities to choose right,
To shed a broken past,
To start again,
As he himself had done.


The builder and designer
On a home improvement show
You may have heard of
Find “the worst house
In the best neighborhood”
And transform it into a showplace.

They find the good
Even when it seems there is none.
They see potential
Where we see dry rot,
A dark, cramped kitchen,
Dingy paneling,
Avocado shag carpet.
They discern what works
And what doesn’t.
Then they knock out this wall,
Strip those back to the studs,
Rip out kitchen cabinets,
Demo day.

Only then is restoration ready:
Add this window,
Rebuild the kitchen
That gives the home a beating heart,
Replace the rotten walls
With shiplap
And bright paint,
Lay down solid flooring
To support decades
Of first steps,
Dog zoomies,
Prom heels,
Christmas mornings.


There is a God
Revealed in a Book,
Who gazes upon a valley of dry bones
And sees potential.
He finds hope
Where no hope is.

He tells His prophet:
Speak to the bones.
And look:
Ligaments, tendons, muscle, skin
Embody the skeletal valley.

He tells His prophet:
Speak breath to the bones.
And they lived, and breathed,
And rose, and stood,
A mighty army.

When His people turn away
And dim His light with sin
And waywardness,
And won’t turn back
“The easy way,”
When this goes on
And on
And on,
Sometimes the gentle touch of the art restorer
Becomes the hammer of demo day.
“The hard way” of restoration
Costs such pain, such stripping,
So very many tears,
Sometimes defeat
And exile
And the loss of so much once held dear.

A skilled restorer
Never destroys
What was always meant to be there.
The demolition and stripping away
Of layers of false trust
Serve to bring the beauty and glory
To fruition.

When His people are restored,
He returns them to His place,
Life into the dry bones
Of a nation
And a temple.
His servant Nehemiah
Rebuilds the wall,
A symbol of God’s protection
Around the restored city of Zion,
And the Persian oppressors
Even bear the cost.

Restoration never brings
As good as new;
Sometimes the restoration
Is better than new;
Ofttimes scars remain,
Reminders of the cost
And loss
And brokenness,
That we might become
Gentle and lowly
Restorers of each other.
For we are all fixer-uppers.

Demo day is not the end of the story.
Restoration is.

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
1 Peter 5:10-11

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