I had a conversation with a friend this week that so reminded me of how God can (and will) redeem our stories, that it brought me to tears. As we approach Easter, this concept of redemption is at the forefront of my mind, as it’s the most tender and heart achingly beautiful part of the Gospel to me.
That something as brutal and painful as death on a cross can be used as a means of beautiful, limitless grace; that death itself, by definition the end of something, would be defeated and serve as the beginning of life eternal; that the Messiah would come, not as a powerful and authoritative king, but as a helpless infant, born into an unlikely mess, turning everyone’s expectations on their heads, just as he did throughout his ministry, right up until His death....THIS is redemption.
Knowing this, how can we not believe that our own failures and shortcomings will be used by God in the same way? I’ve spent most of my life in church, and in that time, I have made wonderful relationships and could tell you incredible stories of seeing God’s faithfulness play out in a variety of ways. But over the years, I have also seen devastating betrayals, deceit, and painful conflicts within the church. I am confident that some of you reading this have been hurt by the church, by religion in general, or by someone who identified themselves as a Christian. You’ve seen hypocrisy and sin, you’ve seen the church look no different than the world. It’s a hard, dark place to be and if you find yourself here, you have a couple choices. You can give up on church and faith in general forever. I did this for a while. It wasn’t really that I didn’t believe in God anymore, I just was sort of indifferent to Him. A significant life event eventually led me back to the church, and since that time 10 years ago, I’ve formed a community of relationships I couldn’t imagine my life without, I’ve found a faith that has sustained me when I didn’t know up from down, and I’ve learned so much more about God’s head over heels love for His people. You, hesitant believer, you have one other choice here, and it’s to give it another try. I would never make light of your pain or your doubt, and you don’t have to believe me, but I promise you God can redeem your view of who He is and who His church is.
If you’re just barely sticking your toes back into this church thing, let me encourage you to not give up. Bring all your pain and brokenness too, because I know it’s gotten heavy and maybe it would be a relief to set it down, even if only for a while. If you’re reading this and call yourself a Christ follower, be reminded that the world is watching, and they are desperate for something different. REAL people, who act in REAL love, as our Creator calls us to. It’s imperative that we link arms and be united on our mission. because I firmly believe that when the Church comes together and is truly who she’s called to be, there is no force greater. Our world NEEDS to see love, grace, forgiveness, because there’s already plenty of hate, sorrow, and anger. We’re not always going to get it right, but we have all been given the opportunity to be woven into someone else’s redemption story, and that is too beautiful and too important of a thing to allow division or strife to steal from us.
“Of one thing I am perfectly sure; God’s story never ends with ashes.”