She was the most beautiful thing he ever saw. At least that’s how it appeared to me as a child.
The ‘he’ in question was my dad while the ‘she’ was the old wooden boat he salvaged from a junkyard.
Our family life revolved around fishing, and owning a boat was a dream for us, a dream that was financially unattainable. Until, of course, the day my dad bought this beat up boat for next to nothing. Contrasting my dad’s joy, I was dejected as he told us about it; our ‘new’ boat wasn’t the type we had dreamt about. I had visions of an old row boat, and could not fathom my dad’s excitement.
But my dad wasn’t settling.
He chose that boat. He loved THAT boat, because he KNEW that boat. He saw past the years of neglect, the split bow, and the multiple coats of battleship grey paint that covered every inch of it, chrome and all. So following his lead and catching his enthusiasm, my brother and I immersed ourselves in the work of restoration. Paint thinner, sand paper, stain, varnish and caulk, I breathed it all in. Three summers later we had our ‘new’ boat, a perfectly restored 18’ 1955 Zinn Craft with the original engine.
And she was stunningly beautiful.
What a gift it must be to see as God sees; to know who is right in front of us, to know ourselves, the way my dad immediately recognized the potential in that boat. Yet, the only reason he could see beyond the disrepair was because he had seen those boats new in his youth. He had a memory, a reference, he could recall. St. Mother Teresa often remarked to look for Jesus in the distressed and suffering. That was her reference. Yet all too often I remain blind to that reality.
The problem is compounded when we don’t know who we were made to be.
The saints give us an idea, and scripture offers hints, but our final form remains hidden. So the next best thing for me is to recall where God has brought me, humbly acknowledging His tedious, persistent work as he strips away sin and repairs damage and decay throughout my life. And I try to be patient as He’s engaged in the same effort in those around me.
My dad knew what he had in his hands.
And God knows what he created with His hands. He sees the brokenness, the masks covering our shame and insecurities, our weakness, and yet He delights in us. He knows well the work of restoration, and he offers us so much more than healing withered arms, or even raising the dead to life. Whether it is the restoration of the Davidic Kingdom as the Church or the Resurrected body of Christ himself, God does not simply repair, but restores and glorifies. Trust in His craftsmanship and rejoice in His creation.