The bodies in front of me stepped off the dock into the waters of the Willamette River. One by one until it was my turn. A video shows me 11 miles later emerging from the water, stumbling as my legs remember they were made for walking, not swimming.
What the video doesn’t show are the people at the race finish: a group that should be foreign to me. I hadn’t seen or spoken to my Uncle Bill and Aunt Nancy and their two sons, Justin and Evan, in more than 20 years, yet they were there with my dad and two brothers. They were there. With towels, food, water (because while you can swim in the Willamette, you ought not to drink its water), words of congratulations and awe, and the families they had made in the intervening years.
In the Book of Job, God’s faithful servant loses much: his sheep, his oxen, his camels, his servants, and all of his sons and daughters. Yet, Job does not doubt God’s love for him. In fact, he leans into his faith.
The beloved disciple writes in 1 John 5:4,
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
God is powerful and loving, and keeps his promises. It shouldn’t surprise me to see how He works, yet it does. I have stood stunned at the blessings He bestows and how much He restores, and even greater still at how grateful I am for them, even though it’s easy to lament what was lost. There was a time when I couldn’t appreciate a single thing.
Restoration in the biblical sense means that someone or something is improved beyond measure, not merely to the original state. I like to think of it in terms of arriving in a place long wished for but never fully articulated in our hearts. It’s better!
Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.
And my wild imagination could not have conjured up that weekend with my family in Portland. The generation’s mistakes that separated us didn’t make an appearance. The hugs felt twice as strong as before, the laughs twice as hard, and the time together twice as wonderful.