I have long said that my favorite attribute of God is that of Redeemer. Heck, I even wrote that in my bio for my book. I truly love seeing God take a tragic situation and then do His work to redeem it while I cheer from the sidelines. It is a “go God” and a “take that Satan” kinda moment that I look for in times of tragedy. My faith, how I pray for people, and the lens through which I view the world all revolve around God as Redeemer. Then last weekend came and God rocked my understanding of how He moves.
I am still processing this but I wanted to go ahead and write my first post because I think there are people out there who will feel the same and can draw some kind of encouragement here. After Maggie’s illness, we saw God do incredible things in our family, our church, and the adoption community to redeem her illness. I could see it, cheer for it, and find comfort in it, but yet I still felt unsettled. God’s redemption took place quickly but it took 3 years for Him to restore my soul.
I traveled to Boerne Texas last weekend for a women’s conference at a friend’s church. On the way up, I was praying and still trying to wrap my brain around this journey that I have been on for the last 3 years. It was when the speaker opened her 2nd session that I knew why God had brought me there. She spoke on Redemption versus Restoration.
My mind continually jumped from our experience with Maggie, to some sweet friends who are struggling, and then to our community post Harvey. I took pages of notes and recorded my thoughts on my phone during the drive home. I am still unpacking all of that mentally but I want to share some starting points here.
* Redemption is an exchange. God exchanged and redeemed our sin for salvation. Redemption focuses on circumstance. God redeems the tragedies of our lives for His Glory. Redemption stories are the miracles that we love to testify to. They give us hope and remind us that God is in control.
Redemption is exciting. When we are on the outside looking in, we have energy for redemption and motivation to play a role in seeing it carried out. When we are in the thick of the tragedy personally, redemption can feel like a Band-Aid. Those on the outside are cheering for what God has done but your heart is still weary, because when it is personal, restoration still needs to occur.
If we stop at redemption and miss restoration, then we are only allowing God to address our circumstances and we are missing the opportunity for Him to walk with us personally to full healing. Yes, Christ died to redeem our souls but it is the transforming power of a personal relationship with Him that makes us more like Christ every day. Entering into restoration is yielding to that transforming power.
*Restoration is a process. It is about returning something to its original or a better condition. The speaker at this conference used the illustration of a damaged painting that is lovingly restored over several years. Once the restoration is complete, you cannot see that it was damaged from the front but you can see the evidence of the love it took to restore it from the back. She also pointed out that a restored painting is actually worth more in the art world than a painting that was never damaged because of the love that it takes to invest in its restoration. That's cool.
Restoration is hard. It requires that we recognize our brokenness and then desire for God to play a role in the restoration of our souls. I think this next statement is important because many might feel like entering into restoration would negate the significance of their loss. I get that. A restored soul (like a painting) still carries the scars of its affliction. It is not in denial of what it experienced. It is instead in a better place where it can move forward from suffering to a state of restored purpose while displaying the workmanship of love from the One who restored it.
SO HOW DO YOU ENTER INTO RESTORATION AND HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN IT IS COMPLETE?
I am not a counselor so I really can only speak from my own experience what I feel like the Bible supports. Here were the steps for me.
1. Recognize the Need- 2 Cor 13:11
I had to recognize that I needed restoration and that I was not okay with where I was spiritually and emotionally.
2. Rest- Matt 11:28
I had to rest. I cut back on my photography. I quit the job that I had worked at for 8 years in exchange for a schedule and environment that was supportive of my family and that I had more control over. This may be the biggest step for some people.
3. Catch the Lie- James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8
I had to combat the lies of the enemy. When you are broken, the enemy comes after you with a firestorm of lies to keep you down. For me, it was about my value as a mother and a wife. For you it may be about what your future holds.
4. Stay in your Bible- Psalm 19:7
There is a temptation to look other places for tools of restoration but you have to stay focused on the truth and check those resources against the truth of Scripture.
4. Know Who You Are- Psalm 139:13-15; Luke 12:6-7
I had to see my value in Christ and who He created me to be apart from all of the places where I felt like I was failing. The statement “I am enough” became very powerful for me.
5. Its Really Not About You- Col 3:12
I had to recognize that most people who I saw as not accepting of me were struggling with their own demons and that it really wasn’t about me at all. What if they were doing the best that they could? That realization changed my lens of how I viewed others from one of fear and hurt to one of compassion. That was HUGE for me.
6. Don't Walk Alone- Gal 6:2
God gave me someone, who was completely safe, to walk along beside me in my restoration. She was a gift and she gave me a place to capture the lies that I chose to believe so I could exchange them for truth.
7. Take Action Steps Forward- Eph 3:12; Rom 8:15; 2 Tim 1:7
I stepped back into those vulnerable “places” that I add avoided with a new sense of purpose and value.
8. Rejoice in your Restoration- Psalm 138:3; Psalm 5:11; Phil 4:4-7; Rom 5:3-4
I knew my restoration was complete when I saw my value again, could relate with health and compassion to those around me, and had regained my boldness for life and ministry. It is a wonderful place to be.
I pray these steps resonate with someone who is in need of restoration. I was visiting with a friend this week and she referred to wanting to learn how to exist in the “white space” of her life. I loved that mental picture. Sometimes the first step of restoration is to step away from the craziness and enter into the white space. Yes! Sign me up!
For those of us who are fortunate enough to not be thick in the need of restoration, this final statement is big. How many times have we looked at someone who has experienced God’s redemption in their circumstance and judged them for not being okay now? How many times have we wondered why they haven’t moved on? It is either because we don’t appreciate their need for restoration or we are uncomfortable with the vulnerability that it takes to stand with them in their brokenness. I am flipping my lens on that now too.
That really leads me into the next blog and what it looks like for us as a church to not just play a role in redemption but also in restoration. I pray this has been as encouraging to you to read as it was for me to process and write. I still love to celebrate God as redeemer but I am finding that walking with Him through restoration is even sweeter.