Tag Archives: redemption

Moments of redemption

21 Aug

This evening I experienced redemption. A moment of grace. Unseen scars, the sort that can reside for years within the heart, seemed to dissipate. And I am deeply grateful.

Four years ago, life became unrecognizable for me. Dreams shattered, hope destroyed. I had a vision, a dream, to work with street children and see their lives transformed. I wanted to create family for those without, a safe place for those always on the run. And somehow, in a few short months, it all fell apart. Somehow, despite many, many months of planning, praying and preparing, it went horribly wrong. And I was left bewildered, bemused, confused.

Somehow, by the grace of God, I find myself in a very different place four years later. The daily relentless struggle I used to experience – the conviction that I was a failure, the longing to hide away – did not remain forever (although, at times, it seemed like it might). Healing has been gradual, not immediate. A combination of faithful and faith-filled family and friends, an amazing husband, a made-to-talk-to-Becca counsellor, the wisdom of others, and many, many hours of processing on my own.  This journey has been shaped by occasionally progress and then seeming regression. The scars, once so bright, had – over time – faded. But they had not disappeared.

Today, right now, I feel pleased that I have these faded scars – the reminders that failure can be survived, that hope does emerge from the most hopeless places. I am at peace with these reminders, because tonight a few words were spoken that brought a deeper healing to the faded wounds. I am pleased because I have remembered that there is a plan and purpose bigger than myself. And, it would seem, I still have a part to play.

This time, however, it feels healthy and good and right. I have nothing to prove. I can risk again. I can give – not because I need to be liked or needed or a “success”, but simply because there is an opportunity to do so. I can dare to go to a place where I might meet “failure”, because I know such things can be survived.

And so, this evening, I feel grateful. Not only for this new opportunity, but also for the jagged, pain-to-hope story that has got me to this moment. I am grateful for my failure, for it has made me who I am today. It has brought me to a beautiful moment of deep redemption. And now, after all the struggles and doubts, I feel amazing. I feel free.

An unconditional love

26 Jun

I read this blog post yesterday and cannot stop thinking about it.

I am thinking today about “unconditional love”, a phrase often bandied about – but rarely practised. What does it mean to love someone unconditionally? Accepting someone as they are now, not as-you-would-like-them-to-be?

Shari Johnson, who wrote the blogpost, speaks of unconditional love from a mother’s perspective. I want to learn this sort of love. And put it into practice. As Shari says: “I had always known that I had a problem with unconditional love, but I thought if I followed all the “rules” and “worked” for God and his Kingdom, I would get a pass on the love thing. I didn’t.”

Will we love unconditionally – even if it means being misunderstood by others. What if it means I am judged to have “lost my way” or “backslidden”? What if there is a cost?

I’d rather be judged and misunderstood than be the judge who misunderstands. I want to love those around me and accept them as they are, without agenda. Even when  there is a cost. For there will be. This love is not easy.

Us (not “them and us”)

12 Jun

This is an amazing film about the work of Umthombo.

Umthombo is an NGO that wants to challenge the negative stereotypes enshrouding street children. The images of glue-sniffing victims – once so popular – have been replaced by a new mantra: “surfers not street children”. (And we could replace the word “surfer” with a number of others: skateboarder, student, champion…)

The label “street child” has become a dirty word in South Africa. It has widened the gap between “them” and “us”. Street children are seen as “the other”. They are “not like my children”. They are “criminals”, “dangerous”, “to-be-avoided-at-all-costs”. They are, quite simply, “not like us”.

This short film, and the work of Umthombo, challenges these preconceived, socially constructed beliefs (lies). It reveals how lives can be transformed when determined, compassionate people scavenge amongst that-seen-as-rubbish by wider society, refusing to believe that any life is beyond redemption.

Yet this transformation comes at a price; it’s not easy working on the frontline.

I know – I used to work with Tom (founder of Umthombo) many years ago. Yet the cost – the tears, tiredness and traumatic days – is worth it. One changed life is worth it.

Umthombo needs our support. These kids need our support. After all, they are surfers. They are skateboarders. They are champions. Not street children.

Who am I? Where am I? Part II

11 Jun

What did the clever man think? He liked it.

And I liked that he liked it. It felt redemptive somehow. Redemptive – yet confusing.

What should I do with that which has been salvaged? Plucked out of the dark and brought into the light? For that is how it felt – as though part of me long locked away was being released, allowed to re-emerge. “The failure” may not, after all, be the end.

Can failures be rescued, re-imagined, resurrected? What can we do with the remnants?

In Mozambique, several years ago, I visited a rubbish dump known locally as the bocarria. There lived the scavengers, those who made a living from others’ waste. Those who were so poor, so desperate, that the unwanted remnants – discarded by fellow human beings – became their livelihood.

These entrepreneurial rescuers knew instinctively that worthless things may actually be deeply valuable. That life is often found amongst waste, that hope often dwells in unusual places – and can be buried within a smelly, forsaken mountain of shit.

Many of us in the West never get anywhere near the shit. We live complacent, comfortable, there-is-always-enough (or there-is-always-too-much) lives. We throw away that which is valuable – both literally and metaphorically – because it’s easier, more convenient, than salvaging from the rubbish. We put the rubbish in the bin automatically, and we lock our failures in the cupboard in the same way. We discard that which may, sometimes, need to be salvaged.

And so we miss out. On redemption. On hope-restoration. On real-life resurrection.

We miss out because salvaging is hard work and costly. Painful. It takes time. And it rubs your hands (and heart) raw.

I – like many – often make the easy choice: sanitized living – clean, safe and predictable. I prefer order to mess. Hygienic surfaces to those strewn with waste. And yet, occasionally, in the midst of my need-for-order, the unexpected occurs. Scavenging – whilst terrifying and confusing – becomes the best choice. And so I choose it. And there, if only for a brief moment, is the sweet aroma of redemption.

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