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Flip or Flop

By Kath Ruhle, the Families Pastor at The Gap Uniting Church. 

In our first year of marriage, my husband and I moved to a new town and found ourselves living in a
large rental house. We had very little furniture, so family members gave us their unwanted furniture.

We instantly fell in love with a large table we’d been given. The table had a story – it was
originally a kitchen table built by my husband’s great-uncle. At one stage, it was discarded in a
barn on the Great Uncle’s farm. My husband’s dad discovered it, covered in yellow laminate (those
were the days!), and it became the kitchen table for my husband’s family of eight. Before we were
‘gifted’ it, the table had been sitting on the verandah of the farmhouse – neglected and unwanted.

We loved the story of this table, and so we decided to restore it over the summer break. First, we
removed the very ugly yellow laminate and then, using sandpaper started the process of stripping
back the paint, varnish, and glue. We sanded, and we sanded. Some parts of the table were easy to
strip back – the legs and side only needed a bit of elbow grease. Other parts of the table were
impossible. It didn’t matter how hard we rubbed or how much sandpaper we used, and we could not
remove the thick glue marks. In the Summer heat, it was exhausting and demoralising work! There
were times when we both whinged and complained. There were times when we wanted to give up
and discard the project. But we didn’t…

We realised that if we wanted to finish the project, we had to change what we were doing, and so
we flipped the tabletop over. Instead of having thick patches of glue, this side had all the markings
of a well-used table – circular saw marks, clamp marks, indentations, and burns.

Suddenly, we felt re-energised, and we got to work – sanding, fixing up holes, and then varnishing.
And the end result, though far from perfect, was something we were proud of. A beautiful table
with many stories to tell. A table that became our family table for many years.

As I reflected on my story of restoration and read this week’s Bible readings, I wondered about how
God must feel when looking at and interacting with humans – God’s well-loved and special creation
who often whinges, complains, makes mistakes, and wanders away. God’s people often don’t even
realise they need restoration. God’s people who are sick, distressed, and separated from God.

God doesn’t give up on us. God doesn’t discard us. God doesn’t call us a ‘flop’. Instead, God draws
near and reaches out. And if we allow, God ‘flips’ our lives so that we can be fully restored.

I love the imagery of Psalm 107 and the stories of God’s restorative power. Some wandered in
desert wastelands… Some sat in darkness and gloom… Some were sick through their sinful ways…
Some were hungry and thirsty, BUT they cried out to the Lord, and He delivered them from their
distress. (NRSV)


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