I fidget a lot—especially at the end of a workday. I get really antsy because freedom is near.
The other day was no exception. I was in my office putting up some new photographs on my walls and on my door when my friend Tracey came over to my humble workspace. She looked around at the barrage of visual stimulation on my walls and on my shelves and asked, “Where do you get this from, and by ‘this’ I mean the artistic aspect of your personality?”
I told her that part of it comes from my father, who has his own unique artistic side to him, but that I also get some of it from my mother, who was/is very artistic herself as well. She was/is quite the actress. She used to direct the plays at my high school when I was young, and I would go to her play practices just to watch her and the students. I was only 6 or 7, but I remember it vividly. There were even a few plays that required children, and so I got to participate in some small ways.
She also had/has the most beautiful handwriting that I’ve ever seen. I still have a few notes and letters that she wrote, and every so often someone will come up to me and hand me a note of encouragement or verse scribbled on a post-it note that my mother had given them 15 or 20 years ago. She was always writing. I wonder a lot who I would have become had I had the influence of my mother from the age of 12 until now, I told Tracey as she continued to look at a few photographs. I know that my mother’s influence has been with me this whole time, but I think you understand what I mean.
Tracey stopped looking at the photographs and looked right at me. She told me that she is who she is largely because of her formative years in her youth, the circumstances that surrounded her and the influences around her. She said that a lot of who she is today is because of the things she has gone through, both good and bad. It’s the same for me.
And it’s the same for you. You are who you are because of the things you’ve gone through. God has taken you through some very specific things, both big and small, to shape you into who He wants you to be. It’s true. It’s not always easy, but it’s true.
That evening I went to my home group to eat with my friends (and drink eggnog. Oh yes.) We also prayed for and with each other. This is such a healing time for me (partly because of the eggnog, but mostly because of the prayer). I don’t know what it is about praying with other people, but there’s power in it somehow.
We went around the room discussing three individual things that we would like each other to intercede to God for on our behalf. Everyone had their own unique situations and needs, joys, pains and victories. It’s a vulnerable time, but for me it’s really necessary to do because I’m so awesome at bottling everything. In this group of people I have no choice but to speak because they all know that silence means bad. They’ve watched me for years suppress so much, and when I’m really quiet I get this eye from my friend Matthew that says, “You can’t hide from this stuff forever.” I know he’s right.
So when it came to be my turn, I looked into my cup of tea (because when I don’t want to talk I sheepishly look into the drink of choice which I happen to be holding that moment) and asked that my friends would pray for a few things regarding my memory of my mother and how to deal with pain and emotion today. But here’s what got me, and it’s something I’d never really given much thought to in the past: Matthew prayed that God would restore the time lost. That what was lost will someday be reconciled and renewed.
And then, with God’s mild sense of humor, this morning I read in the book of Joel how God wanted to restore years lost to His people. Restoration is in the heart of God. It is who He is. He says, “Come back. I am full of grace. I am full of compassion. Let Me restore what was lost.” I had somehow not given much thought to this attribute of God, but He has renewed something in me, even as I write this.
I believe this to be true.
Life is not easy. There have been times in your life when you have felt wronged or abandoned. Maybe someone or something caused you pain that is almost unbearable at times. Or maybe you don’t feel as though something tragic has happened to you, but there are years that you wish you could have back so that you could have made decisions that would be more honoring to the King. More honoring to others. More loving.
I have come to believe that God is a God of restoration. Of redemption. Of rescue. I believe that God wants to restore you. Restore me. I don’t claim to have all of the answers, nor do I claim to understand God very well, if at all. But I do know that rescue is central to who He is.
So I hope that you, friend, will be restored today. I hope that you will be rescued and gain a more full understanding that God loves you. Your past. Your present. Your pains. Your failings and victories. All of it.
All of it.
You are who you are because He formed you this way. And He wants you to be who you will be under his rescuing and redemptive hand. And as I live, I keep hearing Him say, “Come back. I love you. I want you for who you are. Come back. Keeping coming back.”