|Photo by Kanko 2007|
Saturday, October 6, 2018
Restoration May First Mean Removal
I dreamed that I was attending a church retreat at a rural location in which there were several small, primitive outbuildings scattered in the woods. After the long drive to get there, I wanted to change my clothes and freshen up before the services began, so I went into a shed, locked the door and sat at a small dressing table. There was no electricity, but enough light penetrated the small grimy window for me to barely see my reflection in the mirror.
As I began applying my makeup, I was horrified to see that the blush and foundation were disintegrating in their containers, and that clumps of bristles were falling out of the brushes. I realized too late that the shed where I had chosen to change was actually used for antique furniture refinishing, and that the fumes from paint stripper and other solvents were eating away at the cosmetics, not to mention my skin and lungs!
I ran out of the shed in a panic and was relieved to breathe the fresh air outside, to experience the light breeze and warm sun on my skin, and to rinse my face and hands in a bubbling fountain. As I discarded the cosmetics and applicators, I was surprised to experience a sense of freedom, rather than anxiety or embarrassment, at not being able to conceal my imperfections.
When I awoke the next morning, I was reminded of a sermon I had heard the day before on God’s power of restoration. Before God can restore a believer to spiritual wholeness, sometimes He allows His child to experience a great financial, physical, or emotional loss.
The symbolism of the dream reminded me that before a fine antique can be restored to its original beauty and design, it must first be stripped of layers of paint, varnish, and grime. Thoughtfully applied makeup may enhance our physical appearance, but we must remove it and thoroughly wash our face at the end of the day, or our skin will break out in blemishes. Cleansing is essential not only to take off the makeup, but also dead skin cells and dirt that accumulate during the day.
As we go through life, we become adept at quick fixes: a dab of concealer to hide dark circles after a sleepless night; a forced smile when our heart is breaking; or a white lie about our friend’s new dress complimenting her figure, to distract us from addressing her shopping addiction resulting from emotional neediness.
But these quick fixes cannot fool God. There is no sense in trying to hide our weaknesses from Him, for He knows all about them and us, even better than we know ourselves (Job 42:3; Psalm 139:1-6). He knows not only our sins of omission or commission, but even the dark thoughts that seep from our wicked heart (Psalm 139:23-24). He knows our physical, financial and emotional problems and is working on the solution before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8,32).
Yet sometimes the solution to our crisis, or even to our chronic challenges, is radical removal of what we think we need to solve the problem on our own. In the dream, the makeup fell apart and became useless before I could even apply it, and the paint stripper fumes forced me outdoors into the light, where cleansing and healing could begin.
The breeze and fresh air symbolized the renewing power of the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:2; Acts 2:1-4), and the sunlight and fountain represented Jesus, the Light of the world (John 8:12) and the Living Water (John 4:10-14; Revelation 7:17) from Whom all blessings flow (James 1:17).
Jesus taught that on our own, we can do nothing (John 15:5), but that with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, The apostle Paul realized that God’s grace is sufficient, and that His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Yet so often we turn to our own feeble, manmade strategies that give us a false sense of control, rather than taking our burden to the foot of His cross and leaving it there for Him to handle in His perfect way, with His perfect timing (1 Peter 5:7).
But sometimes when we feel we are being stripped of our own illusory powers, we panic and fail to realize that His greater plan is at work. Sometimes He must bring us to our knees and remove all that we hold dear before we accept that He alone holds our future; that He will allow no trial into our life unless it is for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28); and that His infinite love (1 John 4:8), power (2 Samuel 22:33; Psalm 62:11) and wisdom (Job 36:5; Daniel 2:20) will restore to us many times over what we have lost.
This is clear in the story of Job, who through no fault of his own suffered the loss of all that he had, except for his life and that of his spouse. God allowed Satan to strip Job of his children, wealth, and health, to settle a dispute between Himself and Satan, and to allow Job the opportunity to prove himself faithful to God even in extreme adversity (Job 1).
But when Job was faithful not only to accept God’s will, but also to pray for his “friends” despite their lack of encouragement and support, God restored to him his health, his wealth many times over, and even blessed him with more children (Job 42).
The ultimate example of removal before restoration is when God brings a nonbeliever to his knees by whatever means necessary – danger, disease, financial crisis, loss of a loved one. As the saying goes, there are no atheists in foxholes. These extreme trials may result in devastating loss, yet if they bring someone to abandon their reliance on self and trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven, the eternal restoration infinitely outweighs the removal of temporal assets.
When we experience loss in our lives, may we prove faithful as Job to trust God for the ultimate, manifold restoration of priceless blessings!
© 2018 Laurie Collett