Many times, when I am dealing with someone who has fallen into sin, I find myself in a rather awkward position. A man has left his wife for another woman. What is restoration for him? The ideal restoration in our minds is that he go back to his wife, and restore his marriage if it is at all possible. Yet, sometimes the individual cannot see themselves returning. The door is not yet shut, but they are not willing to go back through that door. The question then becomes, am I finished with restoration? The answer is no, I am not. While I wish, that all restoration could be a backward proposition, for many it is not. Sometimes we must accept the challenge, to restore someone moving forward. That can be much more difficult. Let me explain why.
1. When someone is willing to go back, it is a sign of their repentance. When someone refuses to go back, it means their hearts are hardened. Does God give up on the person who is living in rebellion? No, He does not. God moves forward with us, as He continues trying to convict us of the sin in our lives.
2. Restoring backwards, requires much labor in repairing what has been broken, but restoring forward, requires both dealing with the mess from behind, while trying to avoid the pitfalls moving forward. It is doubly difficult to restore someone who refuses to go back.
3. Restoring backwards, is a much quicker process, because the most difficult part of repentance has already been accomplished. Restoring forward, may take years before they become broken enough to finally repent of their sin.
4. Restoring backwards is much more predictable, because you already know the problems that contributed to their failures. Restoring forward is an absolute unknown. I have been dealing with a man who ran off with another woman. He already knows what the problem was with his marriage, but he has no idea what the problems are going to be, moving forward.
5. Restoring backwards is accepted by most people. Restoring forward is rejected by many, who are self self-righteous and want restoration to be cut and dried. It’s repentance now, or nothing to them. It’s their way or the highway. Unfortunately, that’s just not the way restoration works.
6. Restoring backwards has a far better success rate, than restoring forward. Oh yes, believe me, it does. People who refuse to make an attempt to fix the past, are much more likely to blame others for choices, or make excuses for why they cannot (will not) go back. As long as they blame, and excuse they will never be restored.
7. Restoring backwards is nitty-gritty nasty reality, while restoring forward is pie-in-the-sky fantasy. The person refusing an attempt to fix the past first, is buying into the dream, of this will be so much better, rather than rolling up their sleeves and deciding to fix the mess they helped create.
Almost 32 years ago, I stood at the crossroads facing a decision to go backwards or forwards. People who loved me, new the easiest and safest decision was to go backwards. I remember a conversation I had with my dad. He said, “Son if you repair your marriage, I can see a day, off in the future, where you could preach again. If you choose not to, I am not saying there is not a future for you, but I do not see it as clearly. I will love you whether you go back or not. I will stand by you and do everything I can to help, no matter what you do, but I want you to know which will be the wisest route.”
I did not choose to go back. I decided to move forward. Let me testify for my wife and myself. God has been good to us. We are happy. We love each other. We do not live in regret. However, and please read this carefully because my wife says the same thing as she counsels ladies, if at all possible, go back and restore the past. There will come a point of no return, and when it comes, we will do our best to restore you moving forward, but hear me, you do not know what you do not know. Restoration forward is a hundred times more difficult, than dealing with the past and restoring going backward.
In the days to come, I hope to post a couple of testimonies which I hope will help show that the past is never as hopeless as it seems, and the future is never as ideal as you think it will be.