Sunday, May 29, 2005

Can you see it?

I’ve been working to restore a 1977 Corvette for the past five months. The story of this project goes back to the latter months of 2004 when I got an itch to restore an old vehicle. I contacted an old friend who I knew had done restorations asking his opinion only to find that he had this very car that he could no longer work on because his knees had given out. Understand that in order to restore something means that it is in sore need of work and not in good condition. The first pictures that he sent to me were true to character, a vehicle with no paint, dirty, rusty, and needing work on the interior. Yet, when I looked at the photos I could see the potential and could visualize in my mind how it might look when I was finished.

Complimenting my story were the reactions I got when I shared my interest with some of my family. My father-in-law immediately responded that I had to do the project. My wife gave me one of those looks and supportive responses that I should do it if I wanted to. And then my brother-in-law was more distant with one of those “you’ve got to be crazy” looks. Why would I get such a spectrum of responses? There are some that can share the same “mind’s eye” vision of things regardless of their current state, some that trust you that you know what you’re doing although they don’t see it, and others that are skeptical with no frame of reference to see past things as they are.

Getting into the project I had assessed what it would take to complete it knowing that I would be doing the vast majority of the work myself. I knew there would be a lot of sweat, frustration, periods where progress would seem slow, and overall require a tremendous amount of “stick to it-ness” to see the project to completion. Some days it just took sheer will power to get out there and give it a couple of hours of effort even though I was tired, beat up, and sore from all the work. Looking back on the past five months with two more left to go, I can officially say that I counted the costs but didn’t really know what I was getting into. Why am I doing it? Because I know it will be good when I’m done and I will enjoy driving it on a nice summer evening. When it gets tough I just recall in my mind what it will be like.

Daily life itself mirrors so much our spiritual experiences. If you take my story and replace the context with our journey and effort of reaching Heaven, you’d find many similarities. Our frame of reference must first start with living as a pilgrim and sojourner knowing that our citizenship is in Heaven. The Hebrew writer tells of this mind set in recounting the faith of the characters of old:

These all died by way of faith, not having received the promises, but seeing them from afar, and being persuaded, and having embraced and confessed that they are aliens and tenants on the earth. Heb 11:13

Because of their faith they could “see from afar” where they were going. If you can’t see it, then there is no point in taking the journey or putting in the effort.

To reach the destination is fraught with problems, suffering, and pain. Jesus taught his disciples what it would mean to be a true follower as we can read in Matt 10:25-39. His teaching is of great promise, both positive and negative: Jesus’ followers will experience persecution from those that hate Him but great care from God and those that serve Him. He taught that one should consider the cost before committing to a life of service to Him as we can read in Luke 14:26-35. Peter gives what would be considered by some to be a bleak picture of service to Jesus in 1 Peter 4:12-19, a guarantee that His followers will experience suffering and that justice will not be served in this life. This view is brought to life in the imagery we can read of in Rev 6:9-11, of the souls at the altar of the Lord that were killed, crying out and asking when vengeance would be delivered. They are told just as we that are living: wait a little longer.

Suffering and trials are good for the soul. James writes that they are a joy because it gives us opportunity to be proven true, refined, and ready for the next hurdle. Why was Job made to suffer? Because he was a righteous man that Satan sought to turn away from God. But God knew that Job would endure and that endurance would glorify Him. Job’s suffering gives us so much insight into why Jesus suffered and died, qualifying Him to be the Author and Finisher of our faith. (Heb 12:2-3) Why did all these suffer and endure? Because they could see it: Heaven and God’s glory!