I recently spent some time with a pastor friend who is heavily invested in restoring broken lives in a rural community in Southeastern Kansas. After all, isn’t that what pastors do? That’s what Karl does. He, and many other pastors like him, pour themselves into a community in an Isaiah-like role (Isa. 61:1-2) that mirrors the Jesus that they love and follow (Luke 4:18-19). Why? “Because the spirit of the Lord has anointed them to preach the good news to the poor” and “to bind up (i.e. restore) the brokenhearted . . .”
“Preach the Word; Love the People,” is Karl’s motto. I like that. He lives that.
But Karl has also recently taken on a unique kind of restoration project that is a real metaphor for what he does with people.
Do you know what it is?
Take a guess.
Come on, you’ve got to have some ideas.
Take a shot.
That’s okay. I didn’t know what it was either until I finally asked “What year is that?” Well, if you guessed that it’s a ’54 Chevy truck, you’d be right on.
But open the hood and you’re in for a surprise, because there’s nothing inside. I mean nothing. No engine. No transmission. Nothing.
Open the cab doors and you find the same thing. Nothing. No gauges. No gas pedal. No brake either. Just 4 wheels, a frame, and a body. She’s just the hollowed out shell of her former glory that’s been stripped out for parts. (Oh, and don’t ask me why cars and trucks always are referred to in the feminine gender. That’s a discussion for another day.)
But I digress . . .
There’s a few observations that my friend shared with me about what he affectionately referred to as his “Kansas yard art.” First, he’s had a lot of interest from folks he’s never had the opportunity to talk to because of it. Quite often a new conversation starts out along the lines of, “Hey, ain’t you the guy with the old blue Chevy in the yard? What are you going to do with it?”
His response: “Restore her.” But not just back to OEM specs (For you non-gearheads, that’s Original-Equipment-Manufacterer specifications). Oh, no, he’s got plans to install a snappy rebuilt powerplant with some spunk, pair it up with a transmission and rear end that will throw a little gravel–if you know what I mean. Nothing fancy is planned for the exterior, but a little screamin’ machine hidden underneath an understated exterior.
Second, his goal is not merely to have fun restoring a vintage truck that had long since been forgotten, overlooked, and given up on by many–although I know he’ll have fun doing it. Rather, it’s the conversations that are instigated over “that old blue truck” that leads towards a renewed vision for a restored hope in God as the Ultimate Restorationist. He takes broken down, discarded, overlooked, and forgotten lives and sets about the process of restoring them not to their original specifications, but to rebuild their hearts and lives better than they ever dreamed possible.
Karl sees the potential in an old truck, just like he sees the potential in peoples’ lives. And that’s a reflection of his belief in a God who sees our potential for restoration better than we can see ourselves.
God has restoration plans for each of us. Sometimes, amidst the rust, dents, and broken parts of our lives we can miss His vision for us. But He is not discouraged. Nor is He deterred. Listen to His heart for restoration . . .
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. You will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
I want to submit to God’s restoration plans in my life. And, like Karl, I want to help others find that new hope and future in God’s vision for restoration in others too.
And . . . I hope to get back to Kansas next year . . . and maybe get a ride in that old truck that everyone’s talking about. Because restoration is a beautiful thing. People know it when they see it . . . or in this case, when it rumbles past them sounding real sweet.