Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Redemption - Experiencing the Lower Case "R"

God is still in the business of healing and deliverance. Every day. Forgiveness, salvation and redemption are the things of His kingdom. No miracle is too big or too small.

I think I am finally beginning to understand redemption. I get capital “R” Redemption – Jesus dying for me on the cross – but small “r” redemption has never really made sense to me. When people spoke of it, I suppose I didn’t really believe them. Or Him. Okay, so something good came after something bad. But the bad thing still happened. I thought of the times I took my children to get their vaccines. A few painful jabs in the arm, with that unmistakable smell of hospital… They were too young to understand the protective benefit they were receiving, so how did we try to ease the pain? The public health nurse gave them a sticker. A sticker?! There is no way any of my kids would tell you that any sticker, even a Transformers one, was worth the experience of a sanitizer-smelling stranger stabbing them in the arm with a needle, their own mom an accomplice. But that was my view of redemption. A Dora the Explorer Band Aid stuck on a broken heart.

I remember reading about a couple whose infant had died. The father said that “God redeemed their loss.” What on earth could that mean? It sounded like the kind of ridiculous believer-speak of fundamental televangelists that freaked me out. God could bless them with a hundred other children, but they could never replace the unique life that was lost. At best they might be a distraction from the ache. But redemption? No way.

It’s not like when your car gets stolen, and your insurance pays for a new one. It’s not like replacing your old phone, or a sock with a hole in it. Cars, phones and socks can be replaced. Not children. I always hated the end of Job. (Well, I didn’t really like any of it, but the end was the worst.) “The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters.” Job 41.12-13. Yeah, so he had twice as many animals as before. Great. But ten of his children died! So God gave him ten new ones? The new kids are indeed a blessing, but how on God’s not-always-so-green earth does that make up for the loss of ten beloved lives? How is this redemption?

But wait, don’t I believe in the God who can do “infinitely more than we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3.20)? That means I need to really trust that He can do things that I think are absolutely impossible. Like redemption.

Yesterday I experienced, for the first time that I recognized, the miracle of small “r” redemption. And to me it feels no less remarkable than capital “R” Redemption. (And resurrection is incredibly remarkable to me.) In a situation that has caused pain and anger, fear and shame for over twenty years, God worked a miracle. Out of that suffering He blessed me with compassion, forgiveness, and healing. He didn’t take the awful thing that happened away, but He took away its power, its ugliness. This is not like  I dropped my ice cream cone so God gave me a new one… The memory is not gone, but it is changed. He delivered me from the bondage I was stuck in. I think that is redemption. Yes, there have been many tears, but they became cleansing. Yes, I was clean, finally clean and whole after so many years of feeling dirty and broken.

I was never able to figure out how to put this burden down in my own strength, but Jesus stretched out His arms and took the burden from me, and now I feel light, like I can’t even remember what it felt like to carry it for so long. And now I sound like one of those over-the-top over-zealous TV preachers, but how can I not speak the truth? It all sounds crazy when we don’t believe, but when you experience it for yourself there is nothing crazy about it… it’s crazy how wonderful it is, but not that kind of weird crazy  that is just so, well, weird. And hard to trust. I know it sounds crazy. So did the Apostle Paul: “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Corinthians 1.18) I know that power, and I know it is God.

God heals bodies and hearts and minds and memories. I think I used to believe that was true for others, but maybe not for me. I knew Jesus could redeem me from my sins, but it never occurred to me that he could redeem me from someone else’s sins. But He has. I have this beautiful treasure chest that He gave me, but I kept putting all kinds of junk in it – a beautiful and incredible vessel filled with pain and ugliness, sin and rot. And I forgot my Father had the key! He opened the chest, took out all the crap, and filled it with Himself. God delights in surprising me, lavishing His love on me, showing me that I am indeed His beloved daughter.

I still don’t like the story of Job much. But I now see that the redemption Job received from God was not donkeys or camels or children. It was an overwhelming revelation of how much God truly loved Him, and knowing, really deeply knowing the depths of His love for us is a miracle. (And I have to trust that those children are with God now… that God is not bound by my limited sense of justice or heaven or anything.)

I used to think of redemption in economic terms – you take something that is inherently worthless, like a gift card, merely a piece of plastic, and trade it for something of value, something that is worth something to you. But God’s redemption is far beyond that. He doesn’t just redeem worthless things, He redeems awful things, painful things, evil things.

It sounds crazy to a lot of you, I know, I can hardly believe it myself. God re-routed my neural pathways, rewrote my operating code, took out my heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh. He pruned off my rotten branches, and promises to tenderly feed and water me with His Body and His Word. None of these analogies really work, because this is a case of what is impossible for man is possible with God. (Luke 18.27) 
Healing. Forgiveness. Salvation. Deliverance. Redemption.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” John 14.26-27

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Isaiah 43.1b

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