At the beginning of each year I ask God to show me a word or phrase for the coming year. This year, for 2018, my word is redemption.
At first I thought this was an odd choice because I didn’t feel like I was in a place where I had experienced lots of disappointment. I didn’t feel like I needed redemption, which is an awfully prideful statement, but I guess I didn’t feel like the struggles in my life were as hard or deep as other’s stories I’ve heard. Redemption to me meant tasting a horrible piece of hell and God intervening and renewing that thing. I didn’t realize that God redeems the small crumbs in our lives too.
Soon after receiving my word, all these weird old memories started coming to the forefront of my mind. As I would lay down to go to sleep at night – when my mind has a moment to process and think through the events of the day – an old memory would become vivid and consume my thoughts. These were mostly memories that gave me a gut reaction. Some of the reactions were fear, some were embarrassment, some were sadness, and some were pain. Most of them were memories I didn’t often like to think about or honestly weren’t that important to me so I stuffed them way back into the cob-web corners of my mind.
But, as I am learning, even as I write this, those memories matter to God.
Some of the first memories that were brought to my mind were two occasions I almost died as a kid. I previously wouldn’t have categorized myself as having two near death experiences but after hashing them out with the Lord I was able to see them in a different light.
When I was in 1st or 2nd grade I went with my cousins to a public pool. I was walking along a bench inside the pool when I suddenly slipped off the side and into the deeper water where I quickly learned I didn’t know how to swim. One of my older cousins tried to pull me up but wasn’t much bigger than I, so I still slowly sank, despite both of our efforts.
I remember looking up at the water above me and seeing the sun shining through it as I kept sinking. I remember that sight because I later saw movies that would depict a person drowning and the view would always be from underwater, looking up at the sun shining down.
As I was panicking and flailing, I felt these huge arms wrap around me and begin lifting me up (a feeling I can still recall instantly). When I got above water again and was seated on a step I saw that the lifeguard had jumped in and saved me. I remember being quite surprised that the lifeguard saved me, another thing I had seen in movies.
The second near-death experience I had was when I was playing with friends at the top of the slide on their playground. We had tied one end of each of our stretchy, plastic jump ropes to the beam above the slide and we were holding onto the other end to swing like we were on a vine.
We were playing for awhile and my friends decided to go inside. I was on the play ground by myself for awhile. Eventually I decided to go inside so I jumped to fly down the slide and as I got about half way down the slide, the end of a jump rope swung around my neck and pulled me back.
My immediate reaction was to grab at the end of the rope and yank it free. Luckily, the rope didn’t make a complete circle around my neck and I was able to free myself. I ran inside afterwards and ran to the bathroom to look in the mirror. I remember seeing an ugly bruised line along the top of my neck from ear to ear.
The Redemption Part
Besides telling stories that are a mother’s worst nightmare – I have a point to all of this.
The night the Lord brought these memories to my mind, they were more vivid than I had ever remembered. They were so vivid that I was brought to tears at the gravity of those two situations. At the end of these vivid recollections, the Lord simply told me:
I WAS THERE
He saw me. His eyes never left me. Those times were not the time He had allotted for me to leave this world to be with Him. In those exact moments when I could do nothing to save myself, he protected me. He redeemed that memory for me.
I didn’t realize that I felt fear when I would think of those memories. And also shame in a weird way because I felt like I should have known better.
These certainly were not memories that haunted me or caused me to have irrational fears of pools and slides. They were simply events that happened to me that I didn’t think affected me very much. And maybe that’s another way the Lord protected me – by not letting them become traumatic moments for me.
And isn’t it so kind of the Lord to want no stone left unturned when it comes to redemption? He cares about the small stains and the crumbs that are minor messes in our lives. He cares about the things that we might be able to carry on our own but He wants us to live with freedom in all things.
“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” Colossians 1:19-20 ESV
He wants to reconcile ALL things to himself. Not just the big ones, or the worst ones, ALL memories, ALL people, ALL situations, ALL things.