My favorite stories are those of redemption, and I am sure that I’m not alone. Think of great movies you’ve seen or books read, and chances are they involve one or more flawed characters who are faced with an opportunity to play a part in something bigger than themselves, like saving another person or even saving the world. Somehow, maybe even reluctantly, these “heroes” rise above their shortcomings, past mistakes and failures, and work to bring about some significant good, finding their true selves in the process.
Can We Be Heroes?
Maybe that is a story which resonates with most of us because we hope that proves to be our own story, in a sense. We would like to do something great, that makes a real difference in the world around us, in spite of the baggage we tow from unwise choices made when we were younger, or current struggles and addictions. With reflection, we know that it necessarily involves finding a cause bigger than ourselves, and sadly, some among us don’t seem to ever find that. For many more of us, however, we give in to the notion that we are disqualified from being used for some greater good due to our own history, and that we will never, ever be able to influence our communities, culture or world for the better.
New Every Morning
The Bible is full of redemption stories, told through the lives of flawed and broken characters like you and me. Their stories remind me that God’s M.O. is not to discard broken people, but to redeem them. That is both the Grand Narrative woven throughout human history, and the true story of our individual lives. It is illustrated in the Old Testament book of Lamentations, traditionally ascribed to the “weeping prophet” Jeremiah, who confesses on behalf of himself and his people:
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me. (Lamentations 3:19-20)
It probably isn’t a stretch for most us to relate to those heartfelt words, for we live the consequences of our own wanderings. If the story stopped there, we might with reason sink into existential despair. But it doesn’t:
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:21-23)
And still later in the chapter:
You came near when I called you,
and you said, “Do not fear.”
You, Lord, took up my case;
you redeemed my life. (Lamentations 3:55-58)
The Greatest Story
Yes, stories of redemption are the best because they include, one way or the other, the essential plot of our own stories:
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24)
The question to each of us is which version of my life story am I going to believe and live out? Will it be God’s redemptive story, in which He is making me and everything new, (Revelation 21:5), or will I choose to believe and dwell in my own narrative, unable to move forward from the brokenness born of my wanderings? God, who “took up our case”, beckons each of us to turn the page and join the huge cast of heroic characters woven into the greatest story of them all.