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An obsession for restoration: God constantly seeks to reclaim what we deteriorate through sin.

"I found someone!" I said.

"Good for you, hon. Who did you find? Linda didn't even look up from her knitting as she spoke. She had the look of a distracted mother.

"I found someone to restore our old chestnut cedar canvas canoe," I said. "His name is Mike and he lives down south in the Kettle Valley. He is coming up this way in October for a moose hunt and says he can drop in and give us a quote, maybe even take the canoe back with him."

Linda wasn't studying her knitting anymore. Instead, she was carefully studying me over her half-glasses. I noticed her look wasn't very accommodating. Linda is the family financial planner and if she gets the slightest inkling someone is about to stick a straw into the bank account and begin to suck, she gets real interested real fast. "So what kind of money are we talking about?" Linda challenged. She was scowling now.

"Oh I don't know, about a thousand dollars, give or take a few hundred." I whispered the last part. "That's why he is going to give us a quote first."

"You could buy two new canoes for that much, couldn't you?" Linda asked.

"Yeah, I-I-I suppose so. But they just wouldn't be the same," I said quickly. "They would be made out of fiberglass or plastic, not yellow cedar and canvas. And besides, they would be new. Our Chestnut Prospector is a real piece of history. It's the canoe that settled the north."

"Yeah, fight," Linda said. "You and restoring old stuff. It's become a real obsession with you."

I knew she was fight, but I was still hopeful. Linda didn't share my obsession for "restoring old stuff" but I knew deep down inside that she was powerful fond of that old chestnut canoe. We had shared many wonderful hours paddling and fishing in it. It was leaky and getting pretty rickety now, but I knew Linda didn't want to lose her. I decided to drop the subject and let Linda brood on the idea rather than try to hatch the plan myself. I went down to the spot under the big spruce tree where we kept the canoe covered with a tarp. I was in a mood to ponder.

I pulled the tarp back and touched the painted canvas on the cedar belly of the old canoe. She had seen better days. She was manufactured in Fredericton more than 60 years ago and was the standard of canoes back then. Now everything is high-tech Kevlar, fiberglass and plastic. The new canoes are almost indestructible. Why would I sooner have this old wooden canoe restored than buy a brand new high-tech one for half the money? Why would I sooner spend huge amounts of time and money restoring a century-old pressed-back rocker than simply go out and buy a brand new leather recliner for half the price and none of the effort? Why would I sooner spend more time and money restoring an old California-made Fender flat-topped guitar than buy a new high-quality instrument built offshore? Why would I sooner lay out twice as much money to get my old leather Redwing hunting boots resoled than buy a brand new pair of Gortex super-boots direct from the shoe capital of the world?

As I stroked the old canoe and pondered this, I realized that there were a lot of reasons for my obsession for restoring old stuff. One is that I am an incorrigible Luddite. I don't like new stuff, especially new technological stuff. Another is, I like stuff made in Canada or at least North America. But more than anything else, the reason I would sooner restore something old than buy something brand new is history. From my perspective, history embeds great affection and value into things, thus making the enormous effort and large cost of restoration well worth it. That's why I have an obsession with restoring old stuff. In an odd sort of way, and I am not sure He would be pleased with the comparison: I guess I am a bit like God.

The Bible makes it clear God has an obsession for restoration. In the very first chapters, God creates humanity in His image. When humankind begins to fall apart and distort due to the weathering of sin, rather than scrap the works and begin again brand new, God starts a great restoration project with the old. After the creation account, the rest of the Bible tells the story of God's restoration project. Even in the Flood, God is restoring through Noah, not resorting to the brand new. The project drives God to set apart a person for himself and to set apart a people for himself in order to try and bring restoration and blessing upon all people. Every time sin weathers his people, God doesn't scrap them but goes about restoring them. Over and over again with his people--through the Exodus, through the Wilderness, through the Conquest, through the Monarchy, through the Exile--God is restoring, not beginning again brand new. The reason? God has a history with His creation and with humanity, a history that has embedded great value that warrants the extra effort and cost of restoration. The extent and effort God is willing to go to in His restoration work is made starkly clear one Friday on a cross. God's ultimate restoration work takes on human flesh in order to take on human sin and nail that sin to death. Why? Because sin is the problem; because sin is what causes the weathering and the decay.

You see, here is the thing. I have a history with God, just like my old chestnut canoe has a history with me. Because of that history, because of the love that that history has embedded in God's heart, I have great value to God. When I survey the wondrous cross, I don't see the weathered and decaying man that I am in my sin. I see the potential. I see the startling effort and extreme cost that God is willing to expend to deal with my sin and restore me to himself and to new life. And I sing out in the words of Jan L'Ecuyer:

Father, I'm convinced of Your love again.

Just when I had forgotten, You spoke my name. Father, I'm convinced of Your purpose,

To restore, to renew, to reclaim.

Rev. David Webber is a contributing editor to the Record. He is minister of the Cariboo, B.C. house church ministry. His most recent book is Like a Winter's Aspen: Embracing the Creator's Fire.
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Title Annotation:FOR THE JOURNEY
Author:Webber, David
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Apr 1, 2007
Words:1104
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