I am not a “gear head”! But you can’t live in Detroit and not be impacted by the car industry – especially in mid-August when, in what has become a yearly pilgrimage for many, the “Dream Cruise” descends on the 21 mile route down Woodward Avenue from Pontiac to Detroit. It is the largest one-day automotive event in the world, “…drawing 1.5 million people and 40,000 classic cars each year from around the globe—from as far away as New Zealand, Australia, Japan and the former Soviet Union.” For those of us who live in the neighborhoods surrounding the event, it is a love-hate relationship. On the one hand, there are the detours, too many people and too much noise. On the other – oh, those magnificent cars! Many people begin setting up lawn chairs up and down Woodward weeks in advance as the wonderfully restored muscle cars and vintage automobiles begin to appear in advance of the big day. These cars are beautifully rebuilt, with enormous amounts of time, energy and money poured lovingly into bringing them back to life. Which got me to thinking – why do they do it?
In what many have described as a “throwaway society,” why are people so drawn to fixing up and restoring items from the past? The 1970 Nova SS (my favorite) that roars past us in pristine condition, and takes our breath away, was once like the beat up, rusted out shell that lived in my dad’s garage for years. (He never actually got around to fixing his up, though he wanted to). A table, found at a local garage sale, yellowed and cracked with age, becomes the eye-catching centerpiece in a new living room. What empowers the latest move to “re-purpose” in our culture; and why did the ancient Egyptians bother to become the first people to create prosthetics? What is the real “dream” in the Dream Cruise? Let me offer an idea.
There is a deep, inner desire in us for wholeness. We long for broken things to be restored, even though many times we feel powerless in the face of that brokenness. When we can, there is a passion to re-build. In a world where things, people and relationships are constantly breaking down, investing in restoration expresses a hope that most of us cannot typically put into words. It is the echo of Eden; the gravitational pull of a new heaven and earth to come. It is the promise held out in the resurrection of Christ.
Restoration requires a huge investment. There are always obstacles. But the joy of seeing something – or someone – returned to beauty and usefulness is priceless. I think the Apostle Paul might have experienced this joy when he told Timothy to find Mark and ask him to rejoin Paul, because he had become “useful” to him in the ministry (2 Timothy 4:11). This same Mark caused the falling out between Barnabas and Paul because he bailed out on them on one of their missionary journeys. Mark was a washout, a failure. Yet, after years of tutelage under the gracious and watchful care of Barnabas, Mark reappears – fully restored and ready to serve.
Barnabas is the patron saint of restoration. Paul was a former Pharisee, changed by the grace of God but still held in suspicion by a fledgling church that had experienced his misguided zeal. Yet Barnabas stood with him, as Paul became the great apostle to the Gentiles. We have to wonder how many others Barnabas picked up, dusted off and set back on their feet again. He is the shining example of what the church is meant to be – a workshop of reconciliation and restoration. The dream that calls to us in the garage and the studio, the rehab center and the renovation site is fanned into flame by the grace we find in the Gospel. Jesus is the Great Restorer, and we have the opportunity to apprentice in His business.
It is not just the “sinner outside the doors” that needs us. There are sinners among us – the church – broken and marred by the consequences of bad choices, lustful desires and hurtful relationships, and they need to be restored as well. Pastors and leaders who were once beautiful and useful servants of God, are chipped and bent, the color washed out and the engine dead. We seem so hesitant, even reluctant to walk through the process of restoration with them. We are content to push these men and women to the back of the garage and cover them with a tarp, never to be thought of again.
However, God has a “dream.” It is the dream that, one day, the sign on our church will read “… Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings” (Isaiah 58:12). It is a dream that should resonant deeply within each of us as His children. Does it?