Last night I saw an old friend on local Chicago television. It brought back memories and gratitude.
About ten years ago, my ex-husband and I were doing our best to keep our marriage together and as a somewhat last resort, we made an appointment to see our pastor, Wayne Miller. It was a difficult conversation, but also very healing. Both my ex-husband and I talked about how much we loved our children, but no matter how hard we tried to stay together for their sake, our values were so different that living together had become impossible and toxic.
After we shared our story, Pastor Miller told us that while he didn’t have a specific prescription for us, that sometimes God brings people together for a purpose and perhaps we had completed that purpose, in creating our children. At another point, he talked about how God might be redeeming both of us through our children. He said, “With God, anything can be redeemed.”
I’m not sure that I’m quoting his exact words, but they were something close to that. His words had a profound effect on me that still guides my life.
Before that meeting, I also had a one on one discussion with him about my faith. I started my discussion with him by saying that I was a mystic, and I was very proud of that fact. He surprised me by asking, “How do you know you’re a mystic?” I told him that I talked to God in my journal every day and had psychic experiences from time to time. I went on to share that I wasn’t sure about being a Christian because there were many things that I had trouble believing like that there is only way to God and that people who didn’t believe in Jesus went to Hell. I also didn’t agree with a patriarchal view of God as only a male figure.
What fascinated me the most about my personal conversation was that Pastor Miller questioned the idea that being a mystic was very important. He talked about his own mystical experiences, but then emphasized the importance of how we show up in every day experiences. His personal goal was to minimize his egotistical concerns and let the spirit of Jesus live through him. When I saw him sing the Eucharist, I believed that Jesus was singing through him. With me, he talked about the importance of moving beyond a personal experience of transcendence or being mystical to being a presence in the God in the imperfect real, material world in which we live. Perhaps that’s why I attended a social justice rally with him to protest injustice around how education is funded in Illinois.
So, it didn’t surprise me last night, to see Wayne Miller who is now Bishop Miller, serving the Chicago Synod of the Lutheran Church, out in the streets of Chicago in a peace rally to stop the tide of murders that have been plaguing the city this year. I have a feeling that Bishop Miller still believes that God can redeem anything, and it’s up to each of us to be part of that redemption.
A few months ago, I had a conversation with a woman who sons attend the school which my boys attend. She’s going through a divorce and said to me, “You and your ex-husband and your kids inspire me. You have given me the hope that this divorce could turn out ok. You get along so well with your ex-husband and your kids are happy, good students who live a normal life.”
I’m not advocating that everyone get divorced. Yet to me, to be able to be a role model of a “healthy divorce” comes from the power of redemption and grace. Something that was a tragedy and hardship for me ten years ago was transformed through love, perseverance, and the workings of something much greater than myself.
Too often redemption seems to be described in a conditional way, as if, we have to believe or behave in a certain way. My experience is that the power of redemption is much more unconditional than that. You don’t need to live perfectly to be redeemed.
I have also come to believe that redemption is possibly the most mystical experience that any of us can have. Yet, redemption often requires that we let go of many of our ideas of how life should be and embrace what is. There is a power in facing the truth of our real flawed life that sets us free.
Here a few questions for your personal journey as a writer:
- How have you experienced the power of redemption in your life?
- Do you allow others to be redeemed through your actions?
- Do you believe that all mistakes and missteps in your life can be redeemed?
- Does your writing allow for redemptive experiences?
May you remember the power of redemption this week as you move through everyday life!