This morning in church I heard a message about redemption. To say that this message was powerful is to say that it is hot in the South in the summer. You can see the temperatures on the weather map, and you can even look outside and see that the sun is shining. But until you get out in it...and live and breathe and move...you don't understand the full scope of it. Such is the power of redemption.
Life is messy. We come into this world messy, and it never really gets a whole lot better. I mean, we clean up well...and these are the moments that fill our photo albums and are displayed proudly on the walls of our homes. Times when we celebrated, succeeded, or simply got dressed up because it was incumbent on our mothers to have us photographed.
These weddings, proms, graduations, births, reunions, recitals and presentations all live in our memories and are reflections of our best...or at least represent various points in time. These highlights are the ones that we don't mind sharing with other people...well, except for any photo taken during the 1970s...a particularly heinous era for fashion, hairstyles, and photo quality. These are the days that we would like to define us...be they glory days, red-letter days, or times when we were in the spotlight. But these are just glimpses of who we were or who we are. They show our potential for beauty, or talent, or achievement. We don't particularly mind reliving these days in our minds. Not at all.
Of course, the majority of our days are the busy days. The ones that we wake up in and make the best of with whatever is flying madly at us from dusk to dawn. We schedule ourselves so tightly that nothing actually gets enjoyed. We've taken multitasking to new levels and our shattered nerves reflect our lack of downtime. The ones - that when we are in the throes of - we wish for relief for a few precious moments. The endless diaper changes and crying of a colicky newborn. The hours of homework that the third grader endures. The workdays that are identical except for slight differentiations in which person has been the most annoying during that eight hour period. The cleaning of toilets, dusting, and mopping that looks good for about ten minutes before someone messes it all up again.
But then again, these normal days are so often taken for granted that we cannot believe it when we move to a new phase of life. The children leave for college or in a limo from the wedding reception. Somehow in all of that busyness, we thought that we would be sitting in the bleachers forever...and then we aren't.
And then there are the other days. The days we try to forget. The ones where we messed up in the eyes of the world...but more importantly...in the eyes of God. Where we are mortified at our behavior and cannot possibly explain our mindset. Where we were either too stupid, stubborn, uninformed, or lost to take any other path than the one we chose. Those moments that make us wince in disgust to think about. Yeah, those.
For many of us, those moments took place in our youth, in mid-life, or in a moment or season of rashness. We didn't think, didn't know, or didn't care about who we hurt or what message we sent. We just messed up. And we can go years believing that we will never be forgiven or understood as a result.
There are some bad decisions that cannot be undone and we have to live with the consequences. Others did not change the course of anyone's life but our own. But it matters not, because the really important thing is that God knows. And we know He knows. Therein lies the problem.
We may come to church, do good works, and become the person that He intended for us to be, but we miss out on the relationship because we somehow believe that He cannot or will not use the broken pieces. We don't really want to think about that brokenness after all...we want to believe that we've moved on...learned...changed. But not sweeping up the shards of brokenness from the floors of our hearts can eventually create an abscess. And we wonder why we don't feel close to God, good enough, or anything but a fraud.
For those days...there is redemption. We can get a deep cleaning...and let God use the tiny pieces of our brokenness to create something beautiful and pleasing to him. Like little tiny seeds He can use from the awful bits of us that we'd rather forget and bring fruit out of that to nourish others or give us assurance that we are worthy in His eyes. That's powerful.
That does not necessarily mean that you have to admit every mistake you've ever made publicly, or relive a season in your life that was less than stellar. It just means that you have to allow God to make something beautiful from your brokenness. You have to believe that freedom from the pain is possible.
Tonight I am thinking about those days in my life that I'd rather not think about and wishing that there were fewer of them to note. But what would have been worse would have been to wallow in that pit of despair instead of simply getting out. I'm sure that there will be other days that I will regret...after all...I'm far from perfect. I'll let people down, speak careless words, and fall short of all that He has planned for me. I'd like to believe otherwise, but the fact is...I'm still breathing. That fact alone pretty much assures me that I'm not out of the regrets business yet.
But I have hope. I know that failure is not unique to me...nor is the incredible ability to get on the wrong track. It happens. I'm not flippant about that, nor am I taking it lightly. Sin is serious business. Yet I don't doubt the power of God to turn my weaknesses into strengths and my darkness into light.
Remember that Jesus did the work for you to have peace, love, and joy in abundance. When you are in the darkest valley or believe that you are so far gone that you can never come home...you have to hold onto the truth that it is never too late. If you are drawing breath on this earth...you still have a purpose and a destiny to fulfill.
No matter how bad some of those days might have been...God has the ability to clean the slate and make beauty out of ashes and purpose out of chaos. He can do powerful things when we get out of our own way. Including giving us back the years that the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25).
Praise the Lord for that.