Can God Really Redeem This Picture?

Can God Really Redeem This Picture?

April 07, 2016 - 16:30
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Life's journey may be fragmented and frustrating, but God is there. Always.

The journey of faith reminds me of an old radio. There are periods of quiet stillness. Sometimes there is a deafening lack of noise. And then there is the static. Turn the knob, wrong station, white noise, static: Are you there, God? Can you hear me?

Then, just like the frequency that finally clicks into place, there is the music. Soothing, calm, clear. Perfect harmony. Perfect faith. The mountaintops of our Christian walks and the melodies we try to remember when all we hear is static. This is beautiful, God. I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.

I live in the static more than anything else.

The noise, the clutter, the constant knowledge that I am not there yet. A frustrating place of trying to find the perfect station, trying to hear God clearly, and knowing that I’m botching up the whole process again and again . . . and again.

Living in the static is a hard place to hear God in. It's a hard place if you want to worship, sacrifice, something worthwhile. Living in the static is a hard place to change.

John Donne, the famous poet, wrote a poem titled, “Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward,” which ends with these words: 

Oh Saviour, as thou hang’st upon the tree;

I turne my back to Thee, but to receive

Corrections, till Thy mercies bid thee leave

O thinke me worth Thine anger; punish mee,

Burne off my rusts and my deformity,

Restore Thine image, so much, by Thy grace,

That Thou may’st know me, and I’ll turn my face 

Over 400 years ago this man wrote words that resonate with my heart and with my faith to this very day. I pray and cry for change. “I’ll take the pain, God, if only to look more like you.” I long for the old me to be so burned away that only the image of Jesus reflects off my face.

Periods of my faith exist, in the static, when I feel the rust burning and instead of feeling a euphoric sense of relief—it is so painful. I cry out, “God, where are you? This hurts! This is terrible. Maybe I don’t want this after all.”

Long- and Short-Term Change

This is my static. This is my Lent. This is why the words come rough and my heart aches. How do I have something to say when I don’t want to hear what Jesus is saying to me? How can I teach when I don’t want to learn? How can I grow when I refuse to change the radio station? Again and again, I ask myself: is change possible when we live in the static?

My entire life has been a culmination of events, set patterns, habits, and moments that have created the person I am today. The triggers, the pet peeves, the less-than-Instagram-worthy fits of frustration. How do I push those aside? How do I become the best version of me when I am so comfortable in this skin I wear? How do I change, when I can’t even commit to 40 days without sugar?

If Lent is a short-term change—one I struggle with—do I really believe that God can change me for the long term?

Even more convicting: do I really believe that God can change other people for the long term? The abuser? The addict? The gossip? The bully? The people I hold at a distance because it hurts too much to let them too close?

I give God a lot of credit. He can do great things. But when it comes to people—I’ll take a moment to be real and say, “If I were being honest, the track record isn’t the best.” 

Because people fail. 

They choose not to be changed. They reject the promises of God and choose lesser roads. And we blame God when people fail. Doubt creeps into the picture when humanity stumbles, and with all honesty, we question. “Can God really redeem a picture like this?” 

If We Have Ears to Hear

For three days now I have come back to this question over and over again. Can God really redeem a picture like this? My heart says yes, but I have no words to sooth over the message. I have no idea how or why. I want to say no.

Static.

Can God really redeem a picture like this?

The sin, the depravity of humanity, the crime, the heartache, the violence. We live in a world of social unjustness, racism, sexism, impurity, and utter darkness. Why would anyone want to save a picture like this?

I cry out over and over again, “Change this station, God. Let us hear you better.”

Through the static, it is clear to anyone who listens: God has created the music if only we have the ears to hear. He renews the tired hearts. He comforts those who mourn. He transforms humanity by the renewing of their minds. God redeems, over and over again, He redeems.

We have all seen the redemption of God at work, in either big ways or in small. The substance abuser who now leads recovery groups. The bully who asks for forgiveness. The one person who broke your heart over and over again—but is now trying to heal it.

The before and after we often witness are enough for me to say, “God can redeem.” It is painful, it can take a long time, but it is not impossible. I have seen the goodness of the Lord, and it is incomprehensible.

The Slow Process of Transformation

I used to think that I could never understand why people don’t change. Why the abuser keeps abusing. Why the addict never stops. Why humanity doesn’t get its act together. Why God doesn’t fix it right here, right now.

But then I think of myself, and the painfully slow process of transformation. We have been offered redemption, but we have to choose it. This journey is not a one-sided

process on the behalf of God. He requires us to die to our old selves to live in Christ.

Change is possible, but it is a daily commitment.

The static cuts in and out. This journey is stuttered, fragmented, and frustrating. This growth is painful. I don’t want to be more patient, forgiving, or more understanding. But the music is playing, just one station over. A few notes cut through the chaos of the static, “Be kind. Forgive. Be understanding.”

So I try, and for a minute, I hear music.

The static may begin again, but for a brief moment in time, the music of heaven cuts through and my heart changed. Soon, the moments will stack on top of each other one by one. Until one day, I will wake up to a new station, a new test of faith, and new static. Even then, when I will have come so far from who I am now, I know that softly, gently, the process will continue. “Change.” 

We worship a God who does not change. We worship a God who transforms his people and equips us to become who we were created to be.

It is safe to be faithful to a faithful God. It is safe to change.

Mandy Jackson is an Oklahoma City-based blogger who loves to write about life, faith, and marriage. You can find her musings at thesebeautifulramblings.com.

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