Redemption comes in many shapes with many kinds of pain

God made me for a reason and nothing is in vain
Redemption comes in many shapes with many kinds of pain
Oh sweet Jesus, if you’re listening, keep me ever close to you
As I’m stumblin’, tumblin’, wanderin’, as I’m travelin’ thru -Dolly Parton

The best thing about being on vacation last week was simply the time away from all the things that had been keeping me up at night. It was a peaceful week, which was nice for us, and it gave me some perspective. I thought about all the years that I had been to Florida with Mike, and the ways that things have changed over time. Last year at this time I was just coming out of a dark place, starting to realize that my view of God was all wrong, starting to be able to trust him again. This year, with a little more space between now and then, I could see how confused and sad I was last year, more than I realized. I think last year’s Lent was, as I said at the time, a huge step in the right direction. So, while I didn’t give up something relating to reading this year, I tried to keep last year in mind when selecting books to take with me on vacation, especially since it (as usual) fell during Lent. I have tried to continue to do the things that helped me turn that corner, to be mindful year-round. And I think it’s been good for me.

I’ve been thinking about redemption this week, and it’s mostly Dolly Parton’s fault. Mike put “Travelin’ Thru” on my iPod after we got back, because I enjoyed her performance on the Oscars so much. And I kept trying to figure out why I was tearing up at the line I used in the title. Tearing up at Dolly Parton? Even though I like Dolly Parton, I’m not sure whether that’s allowed. But then I realized that, last year at this time, I couldn’t have said for sure that I believed that “nothing is in vain,” but now . . . I think I could.

I think when something is redeemed, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt anymore. And maybe that’s why the line hits me so hard, because the glimpses of our past years in Florida show me at different stages, struggling with different things, and it’s not as if that pain has gone away. It’s just that now I can see that it meant something. The growth didn’t come like I would have wanted, but I can’t deny the change that it’s brought. Good change, change worth fighting for. It kind of reminds me of the flood last year in our house, and how, in the months afterward, people would say, “With all these improvements, don’t you think it was worth it?” And I thought, “No, I wouldn’t want to belittle how difficult it was by saying that it was all worth it. But I think it’s been redeemed.” Maybe one of the things that concerns me during discussions of redemption is the tendency to downplay the struggle, to focus on the results. But so much of life is the hard part, the learning part. I’m not to the point where I’d say that all my struggles were worth the things I have learned, because I don’t want to forget the difficult way those changes were wrought. If I forget how I really felt, I can’t understand how much better things really are.

I just realized/remembered that this year’s Lenten theme at church is “Redeeming the Miles.” Guess Dolly and I are in good company with all of these thoughts, after all.

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