there is a real thief out there, and he is out for our joy.
if there is a single thing i have learned about myself in the last several months (or, really, the past 23 years), it is that i am infallibly human, through and through. i prove this to myself over and over again, every second of every day. i lose my patience, i say things i don't actually mean, i give into temptations both serious and silly alike and i forget on a daily basis to live like the person i was made to be. claire, but a better one. a redeemed version of myself.
in addition to being thoroughly infallibly human, i am also thoroughly and infallibly my father's daughter. i love my dad a ridiculous amount, and i tend to take him at his word (sometimes to a fault...sorry, dad). i tend to perk up and pay attention to things in which he is interested, but i also tend to automatically disdain things to which he (proverbially, mostly) turns up his nose. (sidenote: there are a few things i enjoy that my father really hates: "sit-down" restaurants [AKA, ones that don't "trust the people"--you may inquire later as to what that means, if you are so inclined], "exotic" foods such as cheesecake and pei wei [don't ask], and, last but not least, undisciplined dietary habits [e.g. "hey claire, do you want an apple or a piece of apple pie?" "apple pie, duh"]. my father is not one to be tempted by worldly pleasures such as dense, calorie-laden, DELICIOUS pastries. but i digress.)
along with stuck-up waiters ("they think they're so much better than me!" "...dad, they just want to refill your drink for you"), my dad also tends to despise christian catchphrases. you know what i am talking about. this trait was also passed along to me, perhaps affecting me even more strongly than him. in fact, i am known to have adverse (almost allergic) reactions to anything described as being "life-giving"or "intentional". this has seriously limited the number of churches and ministries in which i am able to participate, in addition to giving me an attitude of far superiority to those who fall victim to using such jargon.
until recently, i think i had always abandoned "redemption" to this pile of rejected phrases. argentina has a habit of doing funny things to you, though, and in the last three weeks i have found myself in situations increasingly often thinking to myself "and even this can be redeemed."
my first three months here were less than fruitful, to say the least. if i hopped, full of hope and a sense of adventure, on the plane to buenos aires in september to begin my journey here, i trudged onto the plane a few weeks ago, this time filled with dread and a general sense of doom. (i'm not joking.) i prepared myself to come back to a world where i was not understood, in which i had no friends, purpose, or joys. and when my flight landed, i set out to carve out an existence for myself once more, carefully this time, full of the knowledge that nothing in argentina was as it had seemed during my study abroad in mendoza--that life here was not easy, was not to be enjoyed.
in spite of myself, though, i found myself illogically joyful. i actually really liked being reunited with the other five crazy members of my team, and i found that the summer here (though hot), also lent itself to an inexplicable feeling of both adventurous freedom and sloth-like laze. i found myself wandering downtown, months later still in awe of all the beautiful sights; at a huge reggaeton concert deep in a barrio with some neighbors, singing shamelessly, loudly along with the unruly crowd; even in my own room, laughing uproariously with my roommate over the ridiculousness of each day's events.
and then, i realized what redemption REALLY was in my life. what is is now. what i hope i will always find to be true. while i had abandoned it, tossed it aside in the same pile as wild at heart, the prayer of jabez and the shack, it relentlessly resurfaced to me, over and over again, beckoning to me with its sense of promise and renewal. and slowly, finally, it hit me. not necessarily what redemption IS, but what it is NOT.
redemption is not a one-time deal. it is not something that we can do for ourselves, and it is definitely not anything to toss to the side. it is real, it is joyful, it is ongoing, it is GIVEN and to be RECEIVED with arms wide open (cue that one awful creed song--oh wait, they are all terrible). i realized that it was being offered to me freely, every day, that it was just waiting to sweep me off my feet and remind me of the deep and true love of the One who saved us, who still saves us every day.
back to the thief. some days, i wake up and can just sense the spirit of provision of love in my life, and the sweet aroma of hope and promise seems to flood my senses and overwhelm my being. i love those days--when life seems to be filled to the brim with sundresses, the warm beating of the sun against my skin, swingsets, and laughter.
other days, though, are a struggle. there are those days i can't seem to get anything right, when everyone around me seems to have forgotten about how hard MY life is, about MY needs, when all i can really do is focus on myself and go into survival mode and pray for a swift end to the next 6 months. and these are the days i REALLY have to focus on living like a person redeemed. it is on these days, when i can hardly drag my feet up the five flights of stairs just to flop down onto my bed and let the tears flow, that i can hear the soft, sweet whisper. "and even this can be redeemed."
more than anything, i am asking you, as my dear friends and beloved stalkers, to hold me accountable to this free gift of redemption, to help me remember to accept it both humbly and boldly even on the days when i feel most robbed of my joy.
one definition of redemption is "the recovery of something pawned or mortgaged." i realize, in my most broken times, that i have pawned myself off to a lonely, sad way of life, one void of joy and goodness and instead filled with selfish desires and inward thinking. it is in these times, though, that i can feel Jesus taking me by the hand, to both recover me from my helpless estate and restore me to the design for which he had originally created me. and when i remember how gentle his hands on mine, guiding me back to the life he has planned for me, i cannot help but feel joy, and love, and sunshine on my skin.
what a vicious and sweet cycle redemption is, friends. let us never take it for granted.