“Are the words written in a story somewhere? I know we’ve talked about them – but I can’t find a blog post.”
She had written a poem – a beautiful thing about sailing and storms and a God who has proven Himself a worthy captain time and time again. Within her words, my words were found. (Sail the Seas)
“God redeems time.”
I’ve said them hundreds of times in conversations, written them in notes, spoken them from stages in all sorts of places. I even use them to describe who I am on social media.
“Above all, remember this: God redeems time.”
Those three words are a mantra for me, reminding me of our great God’s unflinching ability to take even the most raped and ravaged landscapes in our journey and transform them into vibrant gardens that give life to all who come near. They’re inspired by Joel 2:25, in which the Lord says He will restore the years that the locusts have eaten. In striking detail, He describes not one but four different types of insects. For years, I wondered why He would choose locusts rather than a natural disaster or the deliberate pain inflicted by humans. And then I learned that, in certain parts of the world, a swarm of locusts is far different than the bugs that fill the air with the song of hot summer days. Instead, they fill the skies like storm clouds. A swarm can be larger than 2 miles in size, with 50 million locusts in a single swarm. That swarm can eat more in one day that 40 thousand people can eat in a year. And when those locusts die, their rotting bodies can foul land and water, causing sickness and disease for years to come. God says He can redeem what was stripped away, chewed away, destroyed completely. I believe with all my heart that God redeems time, relationships, dreams, hopes, purpose. I am a living witness to the truth of His promise and power.
And yet, there are only three times I’ve mentioned that mantra on my blog – a blog that has chronicled pieces of my life for a decade now. Even though the stories over time have leaked hope and a persevering faith, the references to God redeeming time have been rather wispy and quiet rather than bold affirmations. I’m not sure I would have ever noticed it, had dear Rhiannon not looked for something more.
And now I’m asking myself, “why?”
If I believe in the power of redemption, if it’s a living breathing reality in the life of a woman who has tasted abuse and neglect, a woman who has discovered new beginnings more than once in career and ministry, a woman who has walked to the other side after loss, a woman who has embraced Christ as king of love and life – wouldn’t I be shouting it from the rooftops rather than whispering it quietly?
A friend recently said it’s good to look at the old things we’ve written – to let them inspire us to write new things. She smiles and says that few folks remember the volumes and chapters in our lives, so it’s expedient to open the books every now and again.
In a post about embracing grief as a companion, my mom’s weathered and worn bible was a reminder of life springing up from death.
I am learning in the eternity of the missing. I hear my mom’s voice in the markings on the page. Today, she is reminding me that the latter days will be better than the former, that where I am today – sixteen years later – holds more beauty than she could have ever imagined in any poem she wrote or picture she drew. Today, she’s reminding me of the power that lives inside me to be prophet and priest and keeper of Holy Spirit – perfected words of prayer. Today, she’s reminding me that I am both legacy and future – that seeds planted in the soil of pain have sprung up in bouquets that give life. She’s whispered my favorite scripture to remind me that God redeems and keeps redeeming.
Today, the unlikely friendship of grief says I am still here, still breathing, purposefully planted in this moment to keep living and keep marking the pages until the ink runs dry. (The Unlikely Friendship of Grief)
I made this confession at the end of a prayer asking God to keep me mindful of every moment of every day.
If You created time, would You mold it and shape it so I don’t lose it today? Would You speak with an accent today, one that doesn’t get lost in all the other voices? Could you introduce me to moments that I might miss – a tap on the shoulder and a “Take a look at that, would you?”
“I am so quick to write the day off as a loss because of one ill-treated moment. But if God is the God who created the time that makes up a second, then there’s always hope for the day. Always. Always. Time will reveal that God redeems time.” (Own Time – #write31days)
God’s faithful stewardship of every moment renews and sustains me, even when I become forgetful. So why don’t I write more about something that’s so meaningful to me? Perhaps the most telling reason is tucked away in words I wrote shortly after my 56th birthday.
My friend Sarah asked me, “What would you say was your best year ever?” and I responded, “this one’s not bad at all.” I’m learning to savor the life I am living, and learning to appreciate the days and savor the surprises and not get motion sickness at the shifts and turns. And when she asked what the toughest year was, I was hard-pressed to select one – because the words of Joel 2:25 have been a reality for me over and over again. God redeems time and circumstances and relationships, and restores even the most devastating moments.
But I’ll be honest. There are moments the shadows of my least pretty days show up, when the “weights and measures” pressure returns and I find my breath cut short by the overwhelming pressure to be acknowledged, to be accepted, to be selected.
Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Periscope, Podcasts. YouTube channels and blogs and Snapchat. Lead magnets and killer headlines. Likes and favorites and views and visits and so many hearts, “how big is your list?” and “how many shares did you get?” (and “does anyone really care?).
The scales of social media can be damning if we let them…If I allow the weights and measures of social media to have their way with me, the shadows grow so long. I told a friend that, if I were to write about the things that have received the most views on this blog, I would share cinnamon roll recipes every day (thanks, Pinterest) or show you pictures of my face with soap on it as I declare myself beautiful. If Instagram became the scale, I would chase after images of tourist destinations or beautiful sunsets. And I would work diligently to discover pithy, witty soundbites for Twitter. (The Best, the Most, and the Real)
It’s been well over a year since I’ve penned all those words, but I could have written them yesterday. I believe that God redeems and keeps redeeming. And yet time continues to prove my own forgetfulness of that reality in the midst of the days. I have story after story of His faithfulness to lift us, carry us, restore us, love us. And yet those stories aren’t the ones that garner the affection of the masses.
Even as I let these thoughts fall to their resting place, I hear God’s voice. The words He has for me, I believe He wants to share with you too. They’re not about His redemption; rather, they’re about how He speaks. Yes, He speaks to you. And He speaks through you.
“Your life is My love letter. Remember that. Some days the words written in you will be for the many. But every day, the words will be written for the one – the one nearest you, the one watching you, the one hoping for a sign or an answer or simply encouragement to keep going. Some days the words written in you will be lauded and honored. Every day, the words will be balm for ones who are the beautifully least. One day the words written in you may printed and bound and passed along. But every day, the words will be written on other hearts, passed down and down and down.”
It wasn’t a message to the masses from a girl who has figured it all out that found its way into a poem. Rather, it was a mantra from a girl who still questions, scribbled into a story that may or may not be seen by most. It was a love letter written by a most kind God to the whosoever might need it.
There it is again. God redeeming, purposefully making the most of every moment to reveal His love. Today, He says, “Don’t be afraid. Tell the story. And tell it again.”
So precious Rhiannon, you asked if the words were written in a story somewhere. I think you have written their hope in your poem. This is the living story of a God who redeems time. It is the story always ready to be told.
We recognize “God is in the restlessness”.
We watch as “God redeems the time”
That we spent docked in the wrong harbour
By making every second a tool
That will serve us along the way.
And it will mean heartache and risk
To steer out from that tempting calm,
But our scars can remind us
That even the calm of our own harbour
Is not benign if it is not our calling,
And the joy of living the purpose
Of the dreams God put in our hearts
Is worth the waves and wind
To sail the seas that we were built for…