Redemption as Reset?

Last week, I chanced upon a televangelist and decided to listen. There are a couple I really like, one who has been quite an inspiration to me, many I disregard and a few I hold highly suspect. This is all to say, it’s a mixed bag and this guy may have had something to say I could appreciate.

His message was something I’d heard before: that no matter what we have done, no matter what has happened to us, God can make it as if it never happened. I had an immediate reaction to this.  

I’ve heard this message before, and it’s something to which I grasped earlier in my life, just after a time of turmoil, doubt and quite honestly, darkness. My life had spiraled to a place I didn’t like in a way I couldn’t quite understand. I felt like Job with boobs. Even after the downfall had stopped, and I was well into an upswing, I prayed with all my heart and worked with all my might so that my life could be as if all the things that brought me to that unfortunate place had never happened. I wanted everything around me to look to the world, and myself, as if I’d jumped straight from nineteen to thirty-five without a single hiccup or mishap. In other words, I did everything I could to make sure I would be normal. And eventually, I thought came very close.

The boredom nearly killed me.  

Thing was, all that stuff from childhood, adulthood and in between had happened. I could have the “normal” job, live in the “normal” type of place, buy everything everyone else bought, try to look like everyone else did, and fake my way through the whole Clonecticut way of life. But none of that could erase from my memory, my soul what I’d known, what I’d seen, what I’d been. And when I had to pass for someone who didn’t know what I’d known, who didn’t understand what I understood, well, it was a little irksome. More than a little.

And that’s when someone helped me realize: is being what I am – someone to whom all those things happened, someone who did all those things I did — is that such a bad thing? Is that what I need rescuing from?  Does redemption mean erasing it all, making me like everyone else, and moving forward? Is Redemption a Reset button? Or is it something else entirely? 

I can’t quote this directly right now, but when I was reading about the Kabbalah once, there is apparently a passage that spiritual seekers must understand “the underside of evil.”[1]  Well, check. I also read that people under forty were not allowed to study the Kabbalah in the middle ages. You had to have some life and experience under your belt. Check and check.  Boy, was I qualified for this. And it involved God. And the bad stuff might actually be valuable? Whoa.

So, apparently, all that stuff and all those years weren’t a waste after all. You hear middle-aged people talk about “life experience,” and young people act as if that’s just how we reassure ourselves about beer guts and wrinkles. Well, after spending two years with the young, beautiful people, I can tell you, it’s worth every bit of sag and flab. But that’s a whole ‘nother post. Point is, apparently, that bad stuff can actually be useful.

Case in point:  
Self-aborbed as I love to be, I don’t actually write about myself with the expectation that everyone out there is fascinated to pieces with little ole me. It’s my life’s dream maybe, but I know it ain’t likely to happen. Thing is, I am now in a pretty good place. With the unemployment, the challenges, the blah blah blah, I still feel better, am better than when I didn’t have any of these problems, but felt the world was bleak and dark. And what I remember was how utterly frustrating it was to hear the bland platitudes and well-meaning aphorisms from well-meaning but utterly unknowing people around me. Sure, some wanted to help, but some had less altruistic motives. And however must some of those people may have wanted to help, they couldn’t help me with a problem they didn’t really understand. It’s like I told someone recently, when you’re lost in the woods, you really don’t want directions from someone who’s seen it only from the outside. In short, those of us who look to the world and, to quote Leonard Cohen must say “I am one of those,” meaning the hurt, dejected, sinful, wounded, strange, weird and whatever else, we can help each other, and maybe even help others avoid some of the pain we’ve faced either at our own hands, or the hands of others. If not, at the very least we can keep each other company. At the very most, we can offer up our experiences to those among us who don’t know they’re not alone and those who will come after us.            

So I’ve changed my mind about redemption and salvation. I don’t need a reset. What I need is to bring something good from the bad. Over time, I’ve come to believe that there is nothing so bad that God can’t make something good of it. I think of that every time I think of how I met my husband. And when you realize that, when you think of redemption that way, it matters less what happened before, and even though it may still hurt from time to time, it begins to matter more what you do with it. To me, that’s redemption.  

[1] I will update this as soon as I am back with my books.