I am learning to delight in redemption’s story. I am learning how to live in redemption’s story. I am learning how to let God redefine my “normal”. All of this is a super big process for me.
I grew up believing that anything that was real was something that I could explain. I don’t think I was expressly taught that; after all, we believed in the Bible, and it is full of things that no one besides God can fully explain. However, there was a certain underlying belief that what happened then and what happens now are expressly different worlds. And yet, there was something desperately missing from my life. I was restless for more. More of what? I could never really say.
I have been through some things in my life, and to be completely honest, many of them were extremely difficult. I don’t claim to have walked a more difficult road than anyone else because if there is anything that I have learned in my journey, it is that the pain of one person cannot be compared to the pain of someone else’s. We all have our own special story, our own unique struggle, and our own salvation that is worth celebrating. My salvation story, just like everyone else’s, is still in progress. I call it redemption.
I led a home group last night at the house of a member of our church. In the midst of the lesson, she shared her redemption story, and it almost sent me singing to heaven. Her father died when she was born and she grew up with her aunt because her mother did not want much of anything to do with her. God told her from a young age that even though she did not have a father, He would be her Papa. Her mother is 84 now, and has come to Christ. Now this sweet lady who has been through so much and is still going through so much is desiring to be a leader in the church. This is her redemption story, and it is still being written by the God who never let her go and will not stop until the story is complete.
I can’t help but wonder if this is how God sings over us. Does He look at each of us and see the redemption story that He longs to create inside? Does He desire so deeply to take the canvas and the vibrant colors and go to town with His paintbrush? What would happen if I delighted just as much in each person’s redemption story? I would no longer see a sea of faces staring back at me. I would no longer walk the streets thinking about my own exhaustion and desire to be doing something else. I would be sitting across the table gazing deeply into the eyes of another human being who has felt joy and pain, peace and sorrow. I would be gazing deeply into the eyes of a sweet child of God who has a story. I would be gazing deeply into the eyes of God’s beloved one to whom He offers redemption. And every time the hand of God reaches down into the heart of His child, the story is incredible and unique.
I am learning to rejoice in redemption, and for the first time in my life, I am beginning to see it happen in my own life. Don’t get me wrong, I have followed Christ for a long time. I have served Him faithfully for many years. However, my heart was still imprisoned in the pain of a struggle I held deep inside. I am learning to see God as my emotional healer from a part of my history I would rather erase. I am learning what it means to live in the freedom of His love. However, the most impactful part of my redemption story at this moment is my journey to understand with all of me that God is in fact GOOD.
I have been sick for about ten years now. It has been a very rocky journey for me, and to be completely honest, a very lonely one as well. I had already struggled with loneliness being an only child, and when I started to get sick, I retreated inside in many ways. To even describe the past ten years and the depth of struggle I have had is impossible in anything short of a book, and let’s be honest. Who but our Father in heaven would want to read THAT book? Except the fact that God is beginning a new chapter that makes the book worth reading. The title of the chapter is REDEMPTION.
A few weeks ago, my teammate Brandon came to me with the conviction that he was going to pray for me every day until God healed me. I cannot begin to tell you the door that comment opened up to so many struggles I held inside that I was not even aware of. I could perhaps speak to the souls of many people I know who have battled chronic illness, but I didn’t realize how I had settled into a normal filled with bitterness, deep sadness, and alienation. It was not until Brandon was faithful to follow through every day since that God began to show me that none of these things were His desire and plan for my life. I had told myself and others for years that God is good, but in my mind and heart had interpreted His goodness to mean these things. Without even realizing it, I made Him out to be a monster.
The other day in my devotional time, I heard God say to my heart, “Could you believe that I am a God of redemption, even for you?” Even now, those words pierce like a sword into my soul. Pain has been my normal for so long that I have forgotten what it is like to not have to struggle. The day before yesterday when my team prayed over me, I wanted more than anything to get out of that situation. I tried to back into a corner. I had had enough attention. This was wrong. How selfish am I to even speak of these things? This is weakness. This is madness. Surely in sharing my pain with the world, I will be rejected even more. At least if I return by my own decision to my little hole inside, there is hope someday. I didn’t think I could handle being too much for those around me. Being needy was the last thing in the world I ever wanted to be. I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be a warrior. I wanted to be unshakable, and yet every eye on me could see that I was shaking like a leaf.
Even though my greatest fear is being needy, I realized that perhaps that is what we all are when we stand before God. Why, when we are needy, should we pretend to be anything else?
Last night I taught on the subject of faith. How ironic it is that I perhaps have the smallest faith of all. It seems I pray almost every day, “Lord, help my unbelief!” I can’t help but wonder if it is somehow true that God can take a mustard seed of faith and do great things. I have seen Him do amazing things through me that I had absolutely nothing to do with. I have heard Him speak things through me that had never even crossed my mind. My mouth simply opened, and truth flowed freely. Like I taught about last night from Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” I want to pray like David did in Psalm 51, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
I don’t want to see the world and even my life through the lens of a normal that I have created. I want to see the world and my life through the eyes of God and His normal. I have come to believe some things about God’s character that are untrue. Now we are rewriting “normal”. This is my redemption story in process. The truth is, I can never delight as God does in another person’s redemption story unless I understand it in the deepest part of me as well. I can never contribute completely to someone else’s redemption story if I am still holding onto my own skewed definition of normal. My calling, and in fact the calling of every Christian, is to be wholly engaged in God’s redemption story for the world, and the change must begin inside of us. Sometimes all it takes is a commitment from a friend or a comment that hits close to home for the door to our disillusionment to be flung open. And when it does come open, we must be faithful to address those things before God.
I am so thankful for my team here in Peru that has been so faithful to not only put up with me, but to encourage me and lift me up before the throne of God. Every. Single. Day. Even when I didn’t ask. Even when I didn’t want them to. More than anything I want them to know how much their prayers and faithfulness have meant to me, especially when I am not that great at communicating what is really going on in my heart. Half the time, I am still trying to figure that out myself.
So is God going to heal me? To be honest, I have no idea. We have been exploring as a team what it means to pray for God’s Kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. What is it like in heaven? Selfishly, I would desire that He would heal me, but until this moment, He hasn’t. However, God saw in me something eternal that needed to be healed, and that was my perception of who He is. God does not desire for His children to hurt, but until my heart and will are completely surrendered to God’s heart and will, I give Him permission to do whatever is necessary in my life to bring me to that point. In the midst of whatever that looks like, I pray that God would give me the grace to see His goodness. I don’t want to have a resentful heart toward the One I love. I want to crawl on Papa’s bed and be held tightly in His arms. I have found that redemption’s story is glorious, painful, refining, and complete. I have found that redemption’s story is worth living and telling every single time.
Someday I believe that God has called me to walk with a great number of people through their redemption stories. He has called me to be a light in the darkness. I am deeply excited to rejoice in God’s faithfulness through every story. I am excited to see how God will write mine. And Papa, to answer your question, yes. Yes I believe that you are the God of redemption, even for me. You have my heart. Please do everything in my life that you desire to do, and give me the strength to always be faithful. You are GOOD.
Brenda and Martin
At our first leadership meeting with our new Peruvian leaders that have gone through the Discipleship and Leadership training.
This picture seriously cracks me up every time I look at it.