Gently. Did we forget that part?

Almost monthly, I receive an email, text message or phone call from someone, somewhere dealing with the fallout of being “caught” in a sin. Sometimes it’s the guilty party reaching out to me personally. Other times it’s the ones who have done the catching. In all cases, trust is broken, lives are damaged, hearts are hurting and the person on the other end of the phone needs help or a healthy dose of hope, stat.

I used to be surprised by the caller’s admission or heartbreaking tale. Given my personal understanding of the human heart, our propensity for trouble, and the staggering number of poor choices in our current culture – nothing really shocks me anymore. What actually surprises me more than anything is how others treat those who have fallen, especially in the church.

Not the actual car, but that’s what it looked like.

Years ago, driving home late one night, I glanced at my rear view mirror and saw a plume of white smoke off the side of the road I had just passed.  I realized quickly that something must have happened in the 30 seconds since I drove by.  Curiosity got the best of me and I turned around to find myself as the first person on the scene of a really bad accident.  The car, driven by bikini-wearing college female, had gone off the side of the road and into a formidable tree. When I got to her, she was slumped over the steering wheel, moaning, badly injured.  Windshield glass was all over the front seat.  Music from her car radio was blaring.  Smoke was pouring out from under her crumpled hood.  It reminded me of a movie scene where you had mere seconds to get the person out of the vehicle before the car blew up.  The whole moment was surreal and moving in slow motion.  As I was trying to figure out what happened and how to help her, one smell was undeniable:


She was driving drunk!  How dare she!

I stopped helping her and instinctively began to interrogate her:

“Were you drinking?”, I asked.

“How could you drink and drive!?  Don’t you know how dangerous this is?!  Or that it’s illegal??”

She said nothing, just moaned.

I continued, “I hope you are happy with yourself. You could have killed someone! Or yourself!  Or me!”

She ignored my litany of anger.

“You do realize you are going to jail, right?”

No response.   Just more silence.

I would tell you the rest of our conversation except I can’t.  It never happened.

Don’t get me wrong, the crash was real.

So was the girl, her bikini, the smoking car and her injuries.

But the conversation never happened.

How could it?  She wasn’t in any condition to talk and I wasn’t sure if she had suffered life threatening injuries.  My primary concern was to get her safely out of the car in case it blew up.  (It didn’t)

I have thought about that crash and that girl several times over the last 30 years and wondered what happened to her.  I trust she recovered and learned whatever lessons she needed to from that experience.

But her crash reminded me of another crash I heard about last week, when another reckless driver drove his life off the side of the road.  He wasn’t in a physical car, just a metaphorical one. Instead of hitting a tree, he hit the reality of losing his marriage. Alcohol wasn’t his downfall, an affair was. The injuries he sustained were not physical – just emotional and mental and spiritual and social and financial and…threatening life as he knew it.  His marital car is about to blow.

Two car wrecks.  Two wrecked lives.  Two different causes of their consequences.

If you were to ask the girl if she received help or support immediately following her wreck, she would tell you yes.  Lots of it.  After I arrived, three more cars stopped to help me.  Followed by a couple of police officers, a firetruck and one ambulance.  By the time I left the scene, after 1:00 am, she was in good hands and stable.

I asked the man how his church has responded to his wrecked life. His answer, though disappointing, was not surprising.  Very few have reached out to him.  His wife was triaged and has received a ton of support (as she should!)… but as for him, he’s been largely left to help himself out of the mangled mess.

There seems to be a big difference in how we treat those with physical injuries versus those who suffer from moral ones.  When someone is physically injured, we run to their aid instantly, even if they were drunk driving. We don’t hold back assistance or support, even if their injuries were self-inflicted.  Why?

If you’ve ever committed major league sins around minor league sinners, you know what I’m talking about.  The following seems to get hurled your direction, post-haste:

  • Judgment.
  • Condemnation.
  • Shame.
  • Guilt.
  • Ostracizing.
  • Excommunication.
  • Shunning.
  • Gossip.
  • Silence.

Why?  Why do we run to help someone who falls physically but seemingly walk (or crawl) to help the one who fell morally?  Do we value our skin over our soul?  Our physical well-being over our emotional one?


The Apostle Paul addressed this very issue when writing to the church in Galatia.  He addresses his letter to fellow believers and gives them explicit instructions on how to deal with someone who has driven their moral chariot off the road:

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2-3)

What is your response when you see a stranger suffer a physical injury?

What is your response when you see a friend suffer a moral one?

Listen, the truth is – sometimes we drive our perfectly good vehicles off the road and into trees? Why?

Because we are “caught” in a sin.

That night, the girl drank too much beer.  Another man might look at too much porn.  The homeless Vet abuses too much heroin.  The embezzler takes too much money.  The glutton eats too much food.  I’m not justifying their behavior or condoning their choices as much as I’m saying – these people need our help and support, just as much as those who have sustained a physical injury.

If we are willing to rush towards a physically injured stranger and offer assistance without judgment, why can’t we do the same for someone injured morally in our church?


Paul is reminding his church, those who live by the Spirit… that they need to do four things:

  1. Restore that person.
  2. Restore them gently.
  3. Watch themselves in the process.
  4. Carry each other’s burdens.

Did you see his reason why?  Because doing THOSE four things “fulfills the law of Christ”.

The next time you hear of someone who has driven their moral car into a tree,

Call them.

Visit them.

Hug them.

Restore them.


And do it gently…..


And watch yourself in the process because your car could crash there too.

My Salvage Title

I’ve been helping a friend find a new car and the exercise has been mildly frustrating.  After narrowing the search to a particular make and model, we’ve been on a mission to find something under budget.   It seems that just when we find a car under budget, we discover it comes with really high mileage.  When we find a vehicle well under the desired mileage it seems to inevitably lack certain “essential” features she really wanted – luxuries like wheels, doors, etc.   We’ve been searching online for weeks and the perfect car continues to elude us.

Until today.

On the outside, it looked showroom worthy.  On the inside, the pictures looked immaculate.   Not only did it come under both budget and mileage (with wheels and doors!) but it also included a lot of extras she really desired; sunroof, leather seats, backup camera, power everything and even seat warmers.   I called the dealership to find out more details about this gem and why it seemed too good to be true.

Alex (the salesman) is very positive about this car.   Even though it’s been on his lot for months, he assures me it’s a very good deal and car.   It is not lost on me that I’m speaking with a salesman.   Though I’m certainly impressed with the pictures and overall stats, I want to learn more.   I ask a few more probing questions and receive all the answers I want to hear.   Seldom is heard a discouraging word when speaking with a used car salesman.   I thanked him for his time and hung up.

I’ll admit, it does sound good. It’s under budget.  It’s under the mileage limit she was comfortable purchasing.   It certainly has all the bells and whistles that she wants.   She’s been without a decent car for so long that I know she’d be thrilled to finally have something newer and more reliable.   I mean, it even has seat warmers.   It must be God’s will.

But something seems off.    It feels too good to be true.   I don’t know this specific car or its previous owners and I certainly don’t know Alex or anything about his business or level of integrity.   Though he admitted going to church, I have come to realize that doesn’t always mean that will ensure a trust-worthy transaction.  Sadly, not all “Christians” are as honest as their Christ, especially when they have a “shekel” to gain in the process.

I decided to get on the phone and contact a good friend who is in the automotive industry, at the service department of a large dealership.   If anyone knows cars, it’s Tim.  I run the specs by him and he asks for the VIN # of the car we are looking at.   With this number, Tim is able to instantly look up the history of the vehicle and find out exactly what’s been reported on it over the last few years.  After a few minutes, Tim revealed why the car was priced so cheaply;

It has a salvage title.

A salvage title is given when that vehicle has been significantly damaged and/or deemed a total loss by an insurance company that paid a claim on it.  In other words, it is declared “salvage” when the insurer determines that the repair or replacement cost is in excess of approximately 70% of its market value at the time of the accident.

Though we were disappointed to learn this information, we were grateful we took the time to ask someone in-the-know about the car’s invisibly sordid past. Somehow Alex failed to mention the car’s accident history.   Shocking.

I’ve been pondering this revelation all day today.   I’ve come to realize that in some ways, we are very much like the cars I’ve been looking at.  We come in all shapes and sizes and varying makes and models.   Some look more appealing on the outside.   Others have an amazing interior.   Some even have both.   However, all of us – regardless of our age – have a history.   All of us, in some way, have some mileage in our past.

The truth is if you have parents, have been through middle school or college, have been married, divorced or have children – you come with some extra mileage that is hard to hide or ignore.   You might still look good on the outside, but your accident report has some pages in it.  Many of my readers have been in “accidents” where their vehicles have been severely damaged.   Speaking personally, I’ve experienced too many “wrecks” to count.  On top of the normal “fender benders,” I’ve received a plethora of moral dents from reckless driving, have been totaled in a divorce and show a lot of “wear and tear” that comes with high mileage on rough terrain.   Simply put, if I was a car – I would have a salvage title too.  Regrettably, I have caused significant damage and have been deemed (by some) a total loss.

I’ve thought about the car a lot today and how I relate to its depressing predicament.   I know what it’s like to experience a life-changing crash and the time and cost it takes to rebuild and look towards a future use.   A new hood, a new engine, a new paint job are all part of the fix, but in the end – I still have a salvage title, a pointer to a past I just can’t change or ignore.

Here’s the painful reality for those who relate to my position.  There are some “car buyers” that won’t look our direction.  There are “insurance carriers” who will deem us a total loss, in spite of our improved changes.   There are “drivers” who would not feel safe taking a ride in our car.   There will always be a tire-kicker who will point to our salvage title and use that as an excuse to keep us on the lot.  And like it or not, they have the freedom to make that choice.

If anyone knew what it was like to be a demolished car in the queue for the trash compactor, it was the thief on the cross.  To say he had destroyed his car was an understatement.  If anyone had a salvage title, it was him.   His rap sheet had more dents than a demolition derby car.   Not only had he traveled too many miles, he was simply out of gas.  A human court deemed his life a total loss.  His wrecked life was about to be traded in at the Dealership and within a few hours, life as he knew it was over.  I could drag on the illustration further, but you get the point.  If you know the story (Luke 23), you know his salvage title was replaced with a clean one.  The Dealer graciously took his broken Prius and offered him Paradise instead.   The jalopy got Jesus.  (Ok, I’ll stop)

And likewise, our moral salvage title has been replaced with a clean one, in Christ.

As hard as that is to accept some days, I take refuge in the fact that my God loves restoring old vehicles.  He’s a God who delights in the redemption process and sees value in the cars that others consider too damaged or with too many miles.

If you find yourself struggling with the condition of your vehicle or title status, be encouraged.  There is a Master Mechanic who can not only fix the pieces that have been wrecked but can replace your current title with His and allow you to still travel to places of grace.

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has gone.  The new has come.” (I Corinthians 5:17)

Mr. Restoration

photoLast week my company sent me to a home about an hour north of Charlotte to visit with a couple whose home had recently caught on fire.  Apparently the fire began in the garage, quickly spread to the kitchen and traveled through the attic before it was able to be contained.   By the time I arrived on the scene, 3 days later, the flames were extinguished, the smoke had subsided and the homeowner was left with the task of figuring out what could be saved.

My specific job is to meet with the homeowner, work alongside the insurance adjusters and contractors and try to see what fabric-related items can be salvaged.  Traveling through 6 South-Eastern states, I am in fire-damaged homes every week.   To date, this one was by far the worst.   True, the fire was indeed a bad one.   Most of their furniture and possessions were destroyed.  But what complicated this one even more was one added element.   By anyone’s standard, this couple would be defined as HOARDERS.

It’s bad enough to be in a hoarder’s home on a normal day.  It’s truly an eye-opening experience to see a hoarding home damaged by fire.  To say it was a mess, would be an understatement.   There was a pile of clothes (about 4 feet high) in front of the bedroom closet.  In fact, every closet was jammed packed with hanging clothes.  Over 2,000 clothes hangers were found strewn in various rooms.  Dozens (think 15) of empty shoe boxes littered the home.  Even a piano was discovered in another room under another pile of clothes.  (Yes, a piano!)  I understand that many ladies have a thing for shoes.  This hoarding woman is your leader.  We discovered over 600 pairs of shoes from this 1400 square foot home.   From what I could see, she only had two feet.

Being in the home and interacting with this couple was – at the same time – both disturbing and fascinating.  It was a train wreck that I could not stop looking at.   It made me realize why we are intrigued by the various reality TV shows.  As the couple sat outside their home, a half dozen of us men were in the house doing what we could to help.  Two men were focused on structural issues.  Two examined the furniture.   A fifth man, the insurance adjuster, was there to see what could be claimed.  I was interested in the fabric.  (There is a sentence I have never said before!)   Regardless of why our various companies had sent us, we all were there for one primary reason:


We all were interested in helping this family restore what had been lost.

Walking around their home was overwhelming.  Every room desperately needed to be restored.   Between the fire, smoke, water and filth, there was literally a gaping black hole of need everywhere we looked.   Privately, we joked that the fire department should have just let it burn.  The project was so daunting, even the trained professionals weren’t exactly sure how to get started.   And honestly, as we looked around – we didn’t see much worth restoring.  The clothes were not particularly nice.  The furniture was not particularly expensive.   Their taste in art work, carpet, and other household items were tacky, at best.  No one thought what they had left was worth saving.  Fortunately for them, none of us “experts” had a vote as to whether we should try to restore their items.   In these situations, value is determined by the homeowner and validated by the insurance company.  Our job was not to place value.   Our task was simply to restore.

Unsure of what they valued, we brought them bag after bag of clothes from inside the house.   IMG_0379Blouse after painstaking blouse, pant after pant, shoe after shoe – Mrs. Hoarder would tell us (one by one) what she was willing to give away and what she still wanted to keep.   To be fair, she did surprisingly well – willing to give away over 65 bags of clothing.  Sadly, she was not able to part with over 250 bags of clothes – still maintaining her status as a hoarder.  As I looked around, I saw a house full of trash.  The hoarders clearly saw treasure.   I saw a room full of old clothes.  They saw a closet full of “Sunday best.”  In fact, many of the things they wanted to save – I would have thrown away years ago.  Such is the difference of opinion on worth.  On this particular day, I learned a lesson about value and who establishes it.

As I have thought about this family over the last week or so, it seems that we often look at others’ personal lives in the same way.   We tend to stare at their mess in disbelief.  We are shocked to see how they have kept the closet of their heart.  We marvel at their once hidden depravity and ponder at the number of sinful “shoes” they have accumulated over the years.   How did it get that bad?  How did they keep it from others for so long?  As we walk through the rooms of their lives, we are overwhelmed with their black hole of need.  As we gaze into their moral basement, we are left with two burning questions.   The first is asked in a moment of compassion, “How can I help them?”  The second question, if we’re honest, is a bit more transparent, “Do I even want to?”  For many of us, we are not sure we even want to get involved.  I mean, helping a moral hoarder can’t be done from the front lawn.  They don’t need money or prayer as much as they need an investment of sweat.  At some point, you are going to have to walk in, walk around and begin touching the mess yourself – if you truly want to help.  And sadly, for too many of us, we just don’t want that kind of contact with those who are morally messier than us.   We begin ignoring phone calls.   We stop reaching out.  We stop asking dangerous questions like, “How are you?”   We quit giving a hand or our shoulder or our ear or our money in hopes that maybe someone else will get involved.   We abandon those who need us, not because God released us from the relationship – but simply because we got tired of being in the hoarder’s heart.  Let’s face it, it’s just not a comfortable place to dwell.   We prefer easy and those who need to be restored are far from it.

As I read the Bible, I see the thread of restoration running through every page.

  • Adam & Eve: Before our First Parents were even out of the Garden of Eden, God had restoration on His mind.  As He was doling out the consequences for their idolatry, He was also paving the road of restoration back to Himself.
  • Israel: As a nation, they abandoned God and as a result were led into a 400+ year bondage at the hands of Pharaoh’s Egypt.  God never forgot His chosen people and raised up His rod of restoration, the servant of Moses.
  • Jonah: The prophet of God who would rather have died than follow God’s plan for his life.  From the “stomach of the fish” and from the “depth of hell,” Jonah “cried for help” and God “answered” him.   Why?  God could have easily raised up someone else for the task.  But that’s not how God works.  God doesn’t throw away people or His relationships.  We run, God pursues.  We ruin.  God restores.  While we are swimming in our moral abyss, God is preparing our mansion.
  • The madman: In Luke 8, we are told that Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee with His disciples.  His men probably assumed they were on another field trip with their Leader.  Jesus was actually on a restoration mission and not even a raging storm could stop Him.   Waiting on the other side was a man known throughout history as the “demoniac.”  If there was any man not “worth the effort,” it would have been him.  By all human accounts, he was beyond “saving,” just ask the townspeople who lived near him.   In fact, Scripture paints a pretty dim moral portrait describing him as demon-possessed, naked, chained, under guard and living in the tombs.  Literally, his home was the community cemetery.  Within moments of landing ashore, Jesus rolls up His sleeves and gets to work.  With one question, Jesus began the restoration process.   Others treated him like an animal.  Jesus wanted to know his name.  Seconds later, he is a new creation – “sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.”   Such is the effect of a messed up life in the path of a restoring God.

I think about restoration a lot these days.   For starters, I’m in need of it.   I’m a man who understands what it’s like to cling to the bottom knot of a moral rope… and then let go.  Again and again.  Foolishly, I have spent time with “bad company” and like the Bible predicted, it corrupted “good character.”  (I Corinthians 15:33)  Like a negligent captain, I have run my moral ship aground and have, as a result, lost my most precious cargo.   The lyrics to the song “In the Light” by DC Talk resonate with me:

I keep trying to find a life
On my own, apart from You
I am the king of excuses
I’ve got one for every selfish thing I do

The disease of self runs through my blood
It’s a cancer fatal to my soul
Every attempt on my behalf has failed
To bring this sickness under control

What’s going on inside of me?
I despise my own behavior
This only serves to confirm my suspicions
That I’m still a man in need of a Savior

Ironically, I drive a company vehicle with the word “restoration” on it.   Every day I am in a home that has experienced tremendous loss.  Every day I interact with people who know what it’s like to lose something precious to them.   A few have lost loved ones.  All have lost possessions.   Some have lost hope.   Whether it was fire damage from a stove, smoke damage from an appliance, soot damage from a chimney or water damage from a busted pipe, my entire focus all day, every day is restoration.   As I walk through devastating home after devastating home, the one question that permeates my work is “What can be restored here?”   I find myself asking the same question in life; for me and others.

mr restorationAs I drove off the property that day, I saw the name of the company that was working alongside of mine,

“Mr. Restoration.”

How fitting, I thought.  I was struck with the irony.  Yes, it is the name of a franchise business.  But it’s also the name of my God.   This company restores furniture, my God restores lives.  The business does it for money, God does it for glory.   And this company operates their business just as God operates His, one person at a time.

Whether you live in the cemetery, struggle with an addiction, wrestle with your tongue or your temper or battle a bitter spirit, restoration is on the heart and agenda of God.  And if it’s on His mind and schedule, it should be on ours too.

“This is all that restoration requires most of the time, that one person not give up.”  – Anne Lamott

Then I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten.” (Joel 2:25) 

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The price is right and the importance of new

price is rightWhenever I can, I try to watch the evening news and hear what is happening in our world.  Before the end of each show, they normally try to highlight at least one uplifting human interest story.  Given the massive amounts of coverage that wars, scandals, robberies & murder are given each night – it’s nice to hear a story with a happy ending.   One such story was shared this week and it came from (of all places!) the popular game show, The Price is Right.

Most everyone is familiar with the show.  Contestants are chosen from the studio audience and told to “Come on down!”   They must correctly predict the price of various household items and are given opportunities to participate in various games (like spinning the wheel) to determine their prize.  The reason this story became newsworthy is because the winning prize was the largest in the 41 year history of the game show.  The “lucky” contestant, an older woman, went absolutely crazy when she won.  It was a Publisher’s Clearinghouse moment… the common reaction of every lottery winner.   Everyone is happy to win a prize.  This lady went nuts.  From running around in circles, screaming, crying, hugging, clapping, jumping up and down – virtually every positive emotion one could experience – she had them all simultaneously and in a matter of seconds.   It was both hilarious and uplifting to watch.  No wonder it made the news.   I’d much rather watch this than hear another story of how the Obama-care website is down.

Her prize was a coveted brand new car.   In fact, it wasn’t just a car.  It was a black Audi R8 Spyder Quattro, valued at $157,300… just above the value of my car.  0 miles on the odometer. Unmistakable smell of new leather.  Immaculately clean.  Sleek, shiney, powerful.  You name the amenity, it had it fully loaded.   No wonder this aging Mom loved it.  She gets to finally retire her old mini-van.  She no longer has to sit in seats made sticky from years of fast food spills.  She has the luxury of driving to the grocery store in style.   She has the benefit of getting to her future destinations in record time.   I think it is safe to say that she is the only normal grandmother on the planet driving such a vehicle.   Even the game show host, Drew Carey, was jealous!

Who wouldn’t like to receive a brand new car?   In fact, who doesn’t like to receive a brand new anything?   Everyone likes something new.   Whether it is a new pair of shoes, a new outfit, a new car, a new computer or a new haircut – we all like something new.  And “brand new” is even better.   It means we are the ones that get to “break it in.”   We are the ones that get to enjoy it like no one else ever has.

During the Great Depression, broken things were mended and repaired because people could not afford to replace it.  In our affluent culture, we are quick to replace our old items with new ones.  Why drive an old car if we can drive a new one?  Why wear the old dress if we can afford a new one?   Why keep the old computer when the new ones are faster/better?   In many ways – particularly with things – new is better.  Sometimes we need to say goodbye to the old thing to make room for the new.  Sometimes we need an upgrade or a change of pace or a change of scenery to help us get where we need or want to be.  The old adage “out with the old, in with the new” can often be the best course of action.

Even God Himself seems to desire for us to experience new things.  Throughout the Bible, He reminds us of His desire to remove the old and bring in the new:

  • “Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder the things of the past.  Behold, I will do something new… I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19)
  • “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone… and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)
  • “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)
  • “Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump.” (I Corinthians 5:7)
  • “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (II Corinthians 5:17)
  • “… but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ.” (Phillipians 3:13)

As humans, we tend to focus on the physical components of our world.  We tend to concentrate on material things.  God, being Spirit, focuses on the spiritual.  We both enjoy new things – we just go about getting them differently.  We like to exchange old for new.  God likes to transform one to another.  We like to replace an old hat.  God prefers to transform an old heart.

We replace.  God restores.

And therein lies a significant difference between the two of us.  It is one thing to replace an damaged item.  We can do that – even without God’s help.  But only God can restore a broken life, straighten a crooked heart or mend a damaged relationship.  It is for this reason why we see Jesus take the broken and damaged people in His path and create newness in them.   Jesus was constantly introducing new into the human experience:

  • A new teaching (“You have heard that it was said, but I say…”, Matthew 5 & 6)
  • A new skin (for the leper, Matthew 8)
  • A new body (for the paralytic man & bleeding woman, Matthew 9)
  • A new Sabbath (for the Pharisees, Matthew 12)
  • A new sight (for Bartimaeus, Mark 10:46-52)
  • A new birth (for Nicodemus, John 3)
  • A new hope (for the woman at the well, John 4)
  • A new life (for Lazarus, John 11)
  • A new chance (for the woman caught in adultery, John 8)
  • A new destiny (for the thief on the cross, Luke 23)

I think that is what makes this first day of the year so special for so many of us.   We get a brand new year ahead of us.  Though we are not promised tomorrow, we have the hope of next week in front of us.  We haven’t spilled our milk on it yet.  The weeks and months ahead are not yet tainted.   The New Year has 0 days on the odometer.   Our resolutions are still intact.  It smells like a brand new calendar and we get to “break it in.”

I don’t know about you, but 2013 was a rough one for me – a year of repeated loss.  I lost jobs, a home, material possessions, precious relationships and for a season, even my freedom.   In spite of the intense loss – God met me in the ashes and revealed Himself in new ways.   Though I wouldn’t want to repeat the difficult experience, I am grateful for what I learned because of it.  My yesterday is messy but today is a new day filled with new opportunities, new possibilities, new hopes.  And because of my yesterdays, I can appreciate the todays so much more.

Reminds me of this poem I once read.   Perhaps you resonate with it too?

He came to my desk with a quivering lip, the lesson was done.

“Have you a new sheet for me, dear teacher? I’ve spoiled this one.”

I took his sheet all soiled and blotted, and gave him a new one all unspotted,

and to his tired heart I cried, “Do better now, my child.”


I went to the throne with a troubled heart, the day was done.

“Have a new day for me, dear Master?  I’ve spoiled this one.”

He took my day all soiled and blotted, and gave a new one all unspotted,

and to my tired heart He cried, “Do better now, my child.”

(- author unknown)

Regardless of the blots I may have on yesterday’s paper, God is interested in giving me a new sheet.   The age-less God desires new and improved people.   He is in the business of “restoring what the locusts have eaten.” (Joel 2:25)

Have the locusts eaten some of your crops?    Be encouraged, a harvest is still possible with God handling the plowshare.

Replace or redeem? The need for more bridges

When something expensive is broken and money is flowing, we are quick to throw the broken item away and simply buy a new one.  But when something costly is broken and cash is low, we must figure out how to fix what we have.   Unfortunately, as a “wealthy, first-world” country, we have been allowed to replace too many things for too long.  In fact, in many ways – it’s actually easier and cheaper to buy something new.

A few years ago my DVD player broke.  I called the manufacturer to see how to get it fixed.  I realized that after shipping the unit across the country, paying for the part to repair it, plus the labor charges and the fee to ship it back to me, it would be much cheaper to throw it out and buy a new one.   Honestly, that disturbed me.  DVD players had become so inexpensive that they literally have become disposable!

Most things, it seems, have become easier to replace than redeem.  As a result, we have developed a mentality that encourages us to just buy new instead of fixing old.  And sadly, that mentality is not just isolated to our possessions, but even our relationships.

Most everyone reading this, regardless of age, has a broken relationship out there.  As you read that last sentence, a name comes to mind.  Or three or four names.  People you used to laugh with – now deleted from your phone.

Words were said.  Actions were done.  Actions were not done.  Things that we would have overlooked years ago now cause us to give the silent treatment.   Mild sarcasm that we would have forgiven in the past now turns into a bitter grudge.   Or maybe the wrong done – was really wrong… wrong enough to end the relationship.  The truth is, people can sometimes do hurtful things.  I have come to realize that people who have wounded me were also wounded themselves.  In other words, hurt people hurt people.  A friend will say something critical about us.  Neighbors complain.  Children are ungrateful.  Parents nag or worse yet, treat us like children.  Siblings tease us about a painful past experience.  Co-workers gossip.   Spouses are thoughtless, or worse – unfaithful.   Relationships get damaged and we are left staring at the relational shrapnel trying to decide what we will do with this person we once trusted.  Do we try to pick up the pieces or is it just better to walk our separate ways?

Some of us have viewed our closest relationships like a broken DVD player, disposable.  It’s easier to get a new boyfriend, than try to redeem an old husband.  It’s a lot less painful to get a new friend, than repair a broken relationship with a sibling.  Why open up old wounds with a parent who has hurt you when you can just ignore them now that you are an adult?   After all, you no longer need to borrow the family station wagon to get out.  “I’ve lived without them this long”, you rationalize, “why bother now?”

There are a lot of reasons why redeeming a relationship is better than replacing it.  The temptation is to let pride continue to course through your veins and justify all the reasons why you shouldn’t attempt the restoration.  “But he is the one who hurt me”, you think.  “Why should I take the first step when she is the one who was wrong?”  Or maybe you are thinking something like, “What I did was wrong and hurtful.  There is no way she’ll ever forgive me.  Why bother trying?”   Allow me to list six reasons why it’s worth trying.  One brief disclaimer: I am not suggesting that you need to redeem an abusive relationship or allow certain access with someone that is not physically or emotionally safe for you.  But there are times when you need to forgive (past hurts) and redeem (in spite of the hurt), especially if the offending party has changed/desires to change and is truly sorry/repentant for the hurtful behavior and has shown a consistent track record supporting that change.)    As you read the following list, think of the most important relationship you had, now broken, and picture what restoration looks like with that person. 

  1. People have loved you through some ugly times.   At some point in your life, you were not the perfect, pleasant person you are today.  There was a time when you were sullen, negative, disrespectful, inconsiderate, rude, sarcastic, mean or moody and someone (parent, teacher, sibling, coach, friend) decided to love you in spite of yourself.   Your words or actions hurt them and they decided you were worth the pain and stayed in the relationship anyway.
  2. If that isn’t enough, you have also been forgiven in Christ.  The Bible teaches that every sin we commit is punishable by death (Genesis 2:16-17, Romans 6:23).  Christ’s death on the cross was in your place.   Why would someone die for you, in your place?  Only one reason: love.  “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)   If God can forgive your sins (which He was crucified for), can’t you forgive the lesser sins committed against you?  In fact, restoring relationships is so important to God that He raises the stakes with you.  “For if you forgive others for their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
  3. You have a history with the person.   If the broken relationship is with a family member (ex-spouse, child, parents or siblings,) the history with them is like no other.   They hold a special place that no one else can fill.  You may be able to get another friend – but you’ll never get another sister, father, husband etc.   Even if the broken relationship is not a family member, you have tons of memories with them. At one point, there was some good times and positive experiences.  If you could get back to THAT, wouldn’t it be worth the work?
  4. Working through the pain can actually grow the broken relationship stronger than it was before.  In the human body, muscles & bones grow and strengthen under pressure, and become weak when barely put to use.   Relationships are very similar.  Too many friends “walk” after a heated disagreement.  When pressure hits a marriage, too many think separation/divorce is the answer instead of working it out.  Granted, there is a lot of pain and rehab to do – but it can be worth the effort.  And that relationship COULD be better than it was in the beginning – but only if BOTH sides are willing to put pride aside, change hurtful behaviors, humble themselves, ask for forgiveness and do the heavy lifting.
  5. A restored relationship shows others the power of forgiveness, friendship and love.  I recently read a story about a POW soldier from the Korean War who was tortured mercilessly by his captor for years.  Honestly, it was painful to read about the details of the abuse.  Years later, safely back on US soil – the soldier wondered what happened to this particular guard.  After years of searching, he found the name of his abuser and went to meet with him.  His goal: offer forgiveness.  The captor had become a Christian and was tormented, for years, over his evil actions.   The POW’s forgiveness had set him free.  Enemies had now become friends.   We all marvel at those types of stories, but few of us want to be the main character in one.
  6. If you are the one that initiates the restoration, you communicate a level of commitment to the other party that speaks volumes about your character.  In essence, what you are saying is:
  • “I want our relationship back more than I want my pride.”
  • “I want our friendship more than I want to be right.”
  • “I want your companionship more than I want the possible rejection you can give me right now.”
  • “I want you in my life more than I want you out of it.”

It’s hard to build such a bridge.  It’s painful to swallow your pride (particular if you think you are right).   It’s scary to take the first step.  But it is worth trying.  And years later, when you look back at that “incident” that caused the breach,  you often think, “Wasn’t it dumb of us to be that way?  I’m so glad we got over ourselves!”

  • Who do you currently have a broken relationship with?
  • What is your role in the demise of it?
  • What can you do (this week) to initiate contact and begin building the bridge?

There are three things you need to know about bridge building:

  1. It’s hard work.   It’s not easy going from point A to point B.
  2. It takes time.  You may have to work at it for a while.  If it took 13  years to destroy the bridge, don’t assume it will take 13 minutes to repair it.
  3. Once the bridge is built, you can get to places you never could before.  And others (generations later) can travel on your experience (bridge) and get there too.