Have you ever been desperate for God to deliver you from distress? I have been in that place. I filled sleepless nights trying to visualize what my life would look like on the other side of being saved. I pondered what, exactly, being redeemed would mean so I could aspire to and pray for it. It sounds silly now, but I dissected Mirriam-Webster’s definition of “redeem.” It gave 15 different meanings, each one of which would have been a healing miracle in my life.
A fuller picture came in a sermon by parish priest and SMU Professor of Old Testament William Power. He told a colleague’s boyhood story. It had the ring of a modern parable, but I learned years later it was a true story about a real colleague. It takes place in the 1960’s when S&H Green Stamps were popular. For those too young to remember, Green Stamps were loyalty rewards that retailers like grocery stores gave to shoppers and that shoppers could exchange for merchandise at Green Stamp stores.
The boy enjoyed errands to the Green Stamp store because while his mother shopped he inspected the toy aisles. On one such occasion, the boy was greeted by a forlorn stuffed tiger, sitting alone on a shelf. He was overcome with compassion for the tiger, just sitting there with no one to play with or to love him. He couldn’t just abandon the tiger in the lonely prison of the Green Stamp store. The boy implored his mother, “We have to save him!”
His mother gently explained she brought only enough stamps for her one item, but she reassured him that they had an abundance of stamps and could buy the tiger next time. The boy promised the tiger he would come back and free him. He couldn’t get the tiger out of his mind. After what seemed an eternity, the mother was true to her word and they returned to the store with enough stamps. Overjoyed to be reunited with the tiger, the boy exclaimed, “He’s mine! He’s mine! I’ll never let him go!” Thereupon, the tiger was redeemed.
After that, did the boy just abandon the tiger on any street corner to fend for himself? No! It was his tiger to care for and to love.
That’s how God loves us. God pines for us. He waits for us. Infinitely compassionate to our suffering, God yearns to extricate us from the nets in which we tangle ourselves and those that snare us by others’ wrongdoing. Once ransomed from our distress, is he happy to let us go it alone? No, he wants our hearts, even when we have the awareness of a stuffed toy. He can’t stop loving us and wants us to accept his love and to respond reciprocally. When we open ourselves to the action of this love, we find ourselves changed for the better, re-formed and restored. God alone can expiate us, and his love affirms to us that we are worthwhile. This is what being redeemed means to me.
Join the conversation. What does being redeemed mean to you?
Copyright 2011 Stephanie Walker All rights reserved. Visit www.AcrossTraditions.com.