I remember when a friend took a teenage boy into her home to foster. He was 14 and had had a difficult life. I never knew many details, but I understood his mother lost custody of him due to drugs. I admired my friend: teenagers are challenging in the best of circumstances, and my friend’s son, maybe 10 at the time, was still at home. But she and her husband were strong Christians, living their faith to love and serve. Things went ok for awhile, but by the time the boy was 17, the issues of his past overtook him, and he left their home. My friend was sad, but I saw peace in her that she had done what she could and was called to do.
Fast forward several years, and the boy had grown up. After spending time in his own personal wilderness, he came home to my friend. He’d learned what he needed to learn, and because he’d been given the gift of love, he had a family to come home to. Today that boy is a married father and productive member of society.
We love stories of redemption…they give us hope for ourselves. It’s a familiar theme in literature and movies, from A Christmas Carol to Les Miserables, to Shawshank Redemption and Good Will Hunting. One real life story which made the internet rounds a few years ago was the story of homeless Army veteran Jim Wolf who was given a makeover (worth the 3 minute watch), along with housing and other assistance. It was a great feel good story until we learn that he was arrested less than a year later. Clearly chronic homelessness takes more to fix than a haircut and a new suit. Apparently redemption isn’t so easy after all.
We all need redemption and forgiveness. Who do you need to forgive? I’m finding that list for me needs to start with myself. By squarely acknowledging what I’ve contributed to where I’m at in my life, I’m finding it vastly easier to overlook others’ minor human missteps. No one gets through life without challenges and scars. I’m grateful for the chance every single day to start again and redeem my past mistakes. And to make more of them, and to strive the next day to redeem those.
“Seeking to forget makes exile all the longer; the secret of redemption lies in remembrance.” –Richard Von Weizsaecker