A Fresh Coat of Stain

Thoughts Along the Way©

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Several years ago a missionary colleague was given by her children a wrought iron and wood bench on which to sit and enjoy her garden. Ministry needs and opportunities have moved them out of the house but the bench stayed. When we moved into the house the yard was no longer something you would want to sit and look at and the bench was gray with weather such that you no longer wanted to sit on it. It seemed hopeless but hours of work on the yard are slowly restoring it and a fresh coat of stain and paint are restoring the bench to beauty. As I type, Spring has come, the sun is shining, the grass is greening and the bench is beckoning me to sit on it and let the peace of the garden soak into my soul. What seemed so far beyond help is being restored. Yes, it is taking time and effort but it is well worth both.

Relationships can and unfortunately often do become like our yard – feeling as though they are beyond restoration. Someone says something or does something that brings unknown pain. Usually the person inflicting this pain does not even realize that their word or deed has caused pain let alone the depth of the pain. The person who feels such pain is so stunned that they can’t express what they feel or they do express the pain but not in a way that the other person can hear. Either way a wedge is driven between them. Neither person intended to hurt the other or the relationship. Ignoring what has happened only buries the pain until the next time when the wedge is driven further into their soul. This continues until there seems no hope for restoration; so we turn our back on that person and move on with life. The problem is that our soul does not always move on with us. So we end up with bits and pieces of our heart left here and there thinking that there is no way to gather ourselves and be whole again.

The great good news is that God knows all about our damaged and hurting hearts and has provided a way to restore us to wholeness. He began, before we even knew we needed Him, by sending Jesus to live the life we were not capable of living and then to die that we might be restored to God. This would have been enough for our eternity but we needed even more for our present. The Father then sent His Spirit to dwell in us that Christ might be created in us.

Like the coming of Spring, the Holy Spirit works in us. He opens our eyes to those relationships that have left their scars on our souls. He helps us to see beyond what the other person did to see what we did and continue to do. As the Holy Spirit comes with God’s grace, we can begin to investigate our hearts opening them to God. We begin to see our own need for repentance to the other person and to God – how we have failed to love as Christ loved us. It is hard and painful work but what joy is ours when we are restored. It may not always be possible to go to the other person, but our hearts can always be restored through forgiveness and repentance that leads to a deeper love for the Father and for people. We can see these relationships as a source of God’s grace for us – instead of pain we have joy.

Prayer: Father, it pains me to realize how many holes I have in my heart because of people I have failed to love well. The pain only increases as I come to understand how I have sinned against You by my lack of faith and love. I do rejoice that You continue to love me and work at restoring me to right relationship with others and with You. Give me both the desire and the strength to love enough to face the pain and to work through it. May You be glorified as each person sees the love of Christ expressed through restored relationships.

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