edemption has been on my mind for the past 7 months. Ever since my hand went into rebellion with a repetitive stress injury, the word started ringing in my ears.
I didn’t become friends with redemption right away. I wasn’t even thinking on those terms. For awhile, my thoughts would ping pong back and forth depending on the day. There must be a silver lining to this. What am I being invited to focus on through this small life detour that I may have ignored if my hand stayed healthy? Those thoughts came on the good days. But a liberal dose of these were sprinkled throughout as well: I depend on my hands for basically EVERYTHING that brings me joy in life! This is hard. I don’t like this. How am I ever going to build a business if I can’t use my hands? Wahhhhhh me. I’m so over this! I just want to get back to my art!
Then in the midst of all this, while my hands were still on hiatus, I started talking to my sister Leah. Cue the faint chords of redemption. Leah is a really marvelous artist. She and I had previously batted around the idea of starting an art/stationery business together but, for numerous reasons, it seemed too difficult to me. There was just too much to figure out. Those conversations usually ended quickly with me saying, “Yeah, that would be so cool! But I have no idea how we would make it work in reality – how would we blend our styles, how would we split the profits, who would have what responsibilities, etc etc etc?” This went on and on. I’m an expert at seeing all the pitfalls of a proposed plan. (Uh, that’s legit, by the way. I took a personality assessment that told me so.)
When all my normal activities came to a halt, though, Leah brought up the idea again. “I was thinking about your hand injury and…I would love to be your hands. You can’t use your hands right now but what if I translated your designs for you or we somehow collaborated? I really think we should give this more thought and consider forming a business together.”
I was immediately more receptive to the idea than ever before. Suddenly all those nitty gritty questions didn’t seem as hard to figure out. That resistance I had once felt was all but gone. My thinking started to shift so drastically that it was hard to remember why this hadn’t been the plan all along. This is the PERFECT idea! Of COURSE Leah and I should form a business together!
There have been so many more conversations since that initial chat. It’s gone from a fun idea to a venture we’re pursuing doggedly. I’m talking with an attorney this week actually, to figure out all the legal stuff that goes along with forming a legitimate business. My Etsy shop of handmade cards is great but Leah and I want to take this to a whole new plane. This goal hasn’t been without challenges and there will surely be more – but overall it’s beautiful and energizing and leaves me shaking my head saying, “This may never have happened if my hand had remained healthy.” I’m actually grateful for the injury, believe it or not.
It’s like the John Steinbeck quote that I’ve come to love so dearly: “And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens – the main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.”
In the midst of the tough situation it’s frickin’ HARD to not worry about losing. My brain likes to get on a freak out loop that goes something like this: “This is terrible! This is going to change life as we know it! Say goodbye to every dream you’ve ever had!” Then John Steinbeck presses pause on that soundtrack and says, “Excuse me, but may I cut in for a second? Nothing good gets away, my dear. Have faith in redemption.”
Phew, now all that’s been said, I’ll be TOTALLY FINE, God, if I never have problems with my hand again. Just want to make that clear! I’ll also be perfectly content if no other sadness ever presents itself.
And yes, I see the irony in all this. I completely understand how that last comment shows how very human I am, right down to the core. “I’ve been giving these awesome gifts that I never anticipated through a situation that I definitely didn’t want and I’m going to write a whole blog post about redemption and how everything turned out better than I could have imagined…but dear God, please allow me to avoid any and all future situations of hardship because I’m better off without them. Thank you for your consideration.” Ha! I totally see the absurdity… AND I still feel that way regardless. Maybe enlightened monks would feel differently but I still hate suffering.
I also realize that, in the grand scheme of things, a hand injury is nothing compared to much of the deep suffering in this world. Situations where people say, “What on earth is happening, and why, and how will I survive this pain?” I’m four-leaf-clover kind of lucky that I haven’t personally encountered anything like that yet…but I know plenty who have and I know my future isn’t exempt from the possibility of harsh pain.
So if this starts sounding preachy at any point, it’s basically because it’s a sermon to myself. Boy do I need it. It’s so easy to forget about redemption when you’re right in the thick of a crappy situation. I want to remember that it’s there, even if the redemptive storyline may take awhile to emerge.
THIS is what redemption is to me: something grand and beautiful coming out of something that was ugly.
Here are 3 things I absolutely love about redemption and everything it means:
1. I love that redemption acknowledges the grit. Actually, it hinges on the hard stuff. If there weren’t messy, ugly things present at the start, then redemption would be not just unnecessary but impossible. Without hard circumstances, we get a whole different story, and not a very interesting one at that. I’ll prove it. Story: “Things were great. They stayed great.” I mean, I’m not saying I don’t LOVE that kind of story and hope for it – but at some point in each life in some area, the bottom falls out. And when that happens and I’m grasping at straws, I need the hope of redemption like I need air.
2. Here’s another thing about redemption that I love: when something is redeemed it doesn’t suddenly mean that the hard parts are sanitized and are no longer part of the story. It seems insulting and even harmful when people try to morph other people’s pasts into narratives that actually aren’t that bad. (That’s a classic lament of people who’ve lost someone close, right? When others pat your back and say insensitive things like, “Oh, it was meant to be” or “God just wanted another angel.” Uhhhh NO. Wrong answers. Major buzzers going off right now.)
In light of a world where things can be redeemed, we can still acknowledge that hardships are painful, undesirable, would never even be ALLOWED to happen in a perfect universe. We can still bang our fists on tables and scream into echoing rooms. We can FEEL the unfairness and tragedy of a situation. Then redemption scoops all of that up in its great big hands and says, “Look. I am doing a new thing. YES that was gut-wrenching AND we’re going to make something beautiful out of the wreckage.”
Yes/and. It’s one of the most powerful combination of words this world offers.
3. Redemption doesn’t imply that X had to happen in order for Y to take place. That’s what I like about it, too. There are so many mysteries when it comes to this world, chief among them being why evil and bad things happen and how that can coexist with a God who is good. I won’t remotely pretend to have this figured out or know the answers but I DO know this is where the story of redemption saves me from spinning into a hopeless mess.
When I was growing up, my mom was always quoting her favorite bible verse to us, Romans 8:28. “All things work to the good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” There’s the story of redemption again. It’s not just the good and beautiful things that work to the good. It’s not the things we mistakenly thought were bad but were actually good and that’s why they turned out all right. It’s not that the hardship had to happen in order for good to come. No. It’s simply that ALL THINGS work to the good. It doesn’t matter what you throw into the redemption machine; somehow, once it gets input, good things can arise from the mess.
Now, would things have been BETTER if there hadn’t been a mess to begin with? I’m a lowly, limited human but I’m going to say YES. Evil is the worst. The mystery of suffering is sucky and hard.
I think Anne Lamott describes this paradox best in her gem of a book Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers:
“I also know that life can be devastating, and it’s still okay to be pissed off at God: Mercy, schmercy. I always want the kid to live.
I can picture God saying: “Okay, hon. I’ll be here when you’re done with your list.” Then He goes back to knitting new forests or helping less pissy people until I hit rock bottom. And when I finally do, there may be hope.
There’s freedom in hitting bottom, in seeing that you won’t be able to save or rescue your daughter, her spouse, his parents, or your career, relief in admitting you’ve reached the place of great unknowing. This is where restoration can begin, because when you’re still in the state of trying to fix the unfixable, everything bad is engaged: the chatter of your mind, the tension of your physiology, all the trunks and wheel-ons you carry from the past. It’s exhausting, crazy-making.
Help. Help us walk through this. Help us come through.
It is the first great prayer.”
(As a quick aside, I read Anne Lamott’s writing and think, “What are you guys even DOING reading my stuff?!? Go get every single thing Anne Lamott has ever written and learn about redemption and suffering and wonder from her! Seriously. Get yourself over to Amazon or the library right this instant.)
At the end of the day, I have little explanation for why suffering is allowed to occur – but I am learning about what can happen to that crackly, dry ground even after the worst draught. The hope of redemption breathes life into the worst of times.
Deep breath. Nothing good gets away, my loves. Nothing good gets away.
Note about the nuts and bolts of this blog: It’s good to finally be back with you after such a long hiatus! Now that my hand has mostly healed, I’ve been discerning how to juggle the huge (and exciting) task of starting this new stationery company with my sister with my other endeavors, including this blog. I’ve concluded that I’ll post on the first of every month. So when you turn the page on your calendar, I hope you’ll hop over here! I’ll have something waiting for you, pinky promise.
Yippy, you’re back! Such insightful, powerful thoughts from an imperfectly perfect young lady! I’ve have always struggled with the “This was meant to be/all things happen for a reason” mentality. Yes, but NO! Yea for REDEMPTION! Thank you, Grace! Looking forward to seeing (purchasing) great things from you! xxoo
Heidi, you’re awesome! This is such an encouragement to me. THANK YOU! Glad I’m not the only one who can see the yes-but-no truth to the crazy mystery of suffering and hardship. Thank you for being here! xoxo
Yay I missed you too!
Honestly, knowing you were waiting for my next post spurred me on to finally write, Caitlin! (My mom always passed along the message. :) I appreciate your enthusiasm more than you know!
I enjoy harassing my friends through their family members in order to make them give me a little entertainment during my work day!
This reminds me of one of my favorite bloggers, Kathleen from Becoming Peculiar, who writes about redemption from the experience of discovering that her week old son has a critical health issue and the ensuing sense of “this wasn’t supposed to happen” that follows:
I think you’d enjoy it!
Thank you for sharing this with me, Sarah! Wow, YES I totally see what she’s saying – reminds me also of the homily I heard at Mass today…to get to the resurrection, we must first go through the cross. I feel like I’m hearing this message a lot lately! Suffering is never what I’d ask for but it’s so good to remember that beauty can spring from it. <3