Friday, September 15, 2006

Attempting to Redeem My Usage of Redemption

Wow, never thought Prufrock would generate such a response. Further proof that everyone wants to be an English major (chem major Katie H, we're looking at you :) ); it's just that only some of us are brave (or foolish) enough to actually pull the trigger.

One thing that bears a second look from Prufrock is this concept of redemption. This has become one of my favorite words over the last couple of months - which is odd given that I admittedly have a shallow understanding of it. My recent experience with it follows the basic definition, "Redemption is someone making good out of bad." However, I think there is more depth and power in the word than that.

On his blog, my friend Alex Kirk gives us a more thought out and theologically relevant definition. See Monday, August 28 (and everything else, for that matter; his blog is worth your time every day).

Redemption is the story of God's interaction with the world. He redeemed Adam's sin with Christ's work on the cross. He redeemed the murderous actions of Joseph's brothers which led to the beautiful articulation, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good." He redeemed the event of crucifixion with the resurrection. It's everywhere if you look for it.

This is the story of God's interaction with me, as well. Over and over, he has redeemed my mistakes, my hesitations, and my efforts to create good where I have failed or harmed, intentionally or not. There is great hope in this so that, for example, when I gave a brash and obnoxious talk at chapel this summer, I prayed with hope that God would redeem my poor word choice and tone to impart His good news to people anyways. I could do a lot worse every morning than pray, "God, redeem my efforts today."

Our culture even recognizes that redemption is everywhere, even if only subconciously. We hear it in cliches all the time. "It'll work out in the end." "It'll take care of itself." "One day, we'll look back at this mess and laugh." Generally, we see good coming out of bad, even when we aren't looking for it. Redemption exists in those cliches; the credit just isn't given where it's due.

My usage of the word redemption in the context of Prufrock was flippant, as I used it to impart empathy and sympathy for him. That's cute and nice and cuddly. It makes me feel better. But it does not redeem because no good comes out of the inaction in his life. It is good and right to affirm his worldview, but we cannot let him off the hook for passively standing by. There is no redemption in that. Only fluff.


Brian Humphries said...

I hesitated in responding to your blog because I didn't know if the blogosphere could handle the blog-illiteracy of two Humphrieses. Case in point...I used the word blog three times in one sentence.

I like this idea of "time-release redemption". When we say that everything will work out in the end, we really mean that God is making good happen in the here and now. Only from a later perspective can we see that redemption. Like the period of darkness that draws us back to the light. The feeling of separation from God that makes us yearn to seek his face. Sin today leading to prayer and forgiveness tomorrow. And it answers the problem of using "redemption" in Prufrock's context. His inaction only has worth for the action that it may later inspire. Cool stuff.

I've always struggled with nostalgia, namely why I long for the "good old days" that, in reality, were never all that good. Your idea of "[seeing] good coming out of bad, even when we aren't looking for it" really gives me comfort in that. It gives me some perspective. The good old days were good not because I necessarily enjoyed them, but because I can see how God used them to change me. Back then I despised those times...but through redemption they have regained their place in my heart, their place in my life.

Keep up the good bloggage. It gives me an excuse to make the word blog into as many parts of speech as possible.

-Brian the Bloggerific (adj.)

P.S. You forgot a Carolina prediction for tomorrow.

Jenn Pappa said...

It's amazing when all those standard Christian phrases turn into something with real meaning and understanding- redemption, grace, sanctification, etc. I think they are so confusing because they all seem to be at work at the same time. God's grace and mercy is shown through redemption and sanctification... looking at all those moments in your life where God was using evil (actively or passively, by you or to you) to bring something good reveals "blessings" where you can sit and reflect on how merciful God is. Pretty crazy.

Tammy O said...

That we have a God who is so amazing He can use the weakness, the stupidity, the foolishness, the misplaced zeal of His children for His purposes even while He is replacing those flaws with His own character just astounds me!

"In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory."
Eph. 1:11-12 (ESV)

Alex said...

Good stuff, Ben...and thanks for the blog love!