It is a portrait in my mind that I will never forget; a painting of the worst kind. She was a girl behind bars, fenced into concentration camp conditions; the cots, the dirty shreds that passed as blankets…her eyes. I had never seen eyes like hers before; so large, so sad…direct windows into innocence lost. “Help me,” she voiced in quiet desperation. You could feel it in the air, a state of complete powerlessness, and the weight of it was excruciating. One more breath and you would all succumb for good. How could life, much less salvation, ever come from a place like this?
Nearly twenty years later, I still wonder the same thing. How does life come out of man’s deepest and darkest failings? How do we ever come back from the experiences that haunt us and neglect our cries for freedom, for hope and for anything but this soul searing inequity? The answer lingers quietly in my chest: I don’t know. For all my searching and attempts at truth seeking, I still don’t know what makes up for the lack in mankind.
Lately, I have been pondering the concept of redemption. The idea that, while the world or your circumstances may not change, there is an opportunity to inhabit a space that rises above the human condition; to be “purchased”, if you will, from the life you have lived.
Picture a pack of gum in a store. Nothing can change the manufacturing history of this pack of gum or how it came to be for sale – these are concretes – but there is an opportunity here to change the dialogue:
Who will purchase the gum? Where might this gum go and what will be done with it? Will it sit on another shelf, in a drawer or a forgotten handbag or will it be used in the way it was intended? Better yet, will there be found within it some new and creative purpose?
I believe that redemption speaks to what we could be, what we were intended to be. Redemption says, “No matter how you got here or what your back story has been, it is not who you are.” Redemption speaks to possibility and to a state that frees even the most forgotten, shelf-bound heart.So many of us live our lives behind emotional fences that seem too gnarled, too dead and too hopeless to ever have a chance of blooming again. Redemption, however, embraces all the glorious, complicated branches of our hearts and says to their lifeless limbs: “Grow! You can still be beautiful and free!”
For some of us, like that girl I once knew, life has painted portraits of unbearable darkness; she has pounded our hearts into unrecognizable lumps and called it “art”…but that is not who we are. If you’re like me and you’ve lived to walk away from grief, from sorrow, from loss, from abandonment, from any and all of the stumbling blocks we come across in life, I would encourage you to keep believing. Keep believing that anything is possible, keep believing that this is not the end and keep believing that you can grow again too.
I spent many years questioning the point of my existence and how or why I even survived. I will tell you why: for every debt, there must be repayment. For every hurt, there must be healing. For every injustice, there must be someone to make things right. For every lie, there must come truth. For every broken heart, there must be a Voice to say: “You can be put back together again.”
Redemption is offering a brand new narrative, a portrait of better things to come. May we have the courage to grasp ahold of her…and flower.