The problem with starting over and the hope of redemption

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In the past weeks I’ve heard nearly the same quote from every weary person I’ve encountered, “I can’t wait for 2020 to be over.” Today, the sun rose on 2021 and death, disease and evil are still among us. Even in us.

New years bring with them an idea that we can wipe our lives free of all the wrongs the previous year produced and start fresh with a clean slate. The problem is every new year brings with it the scars and thorns and weeds of the previous year. And I think more than any other year I’ve lived through, 2020 seems to have left us with a hope that maybe now that the calendar says 2021, we can all start over and things will be better.

We all have a desire to be whole. To be complete. To be healthy in our mind and body. To be happy and fulfilled. That desire is insatiable and drives us to look for something to help us get it. I’ve seen it in my own life and in the lives of those I love, the attempt to achieve wholeness by starting over with a new calendar year or attempting to wipe the slate of our lives clean by purging ourselves of difficult relationships. But it doesn’t work. The problem with that plan is we throw babies out with our dirty bathwater. We live in a broken world and even if the world around us was wiped clean of its brokenness, within us the same seed of brokenness is germinating, ready to spread its strangling seeds everywhere we go.

My teenage son, in his struggle to believe this message of Jesus dying for his sins, has asked me, “Why doesn’t God just destroy everything and start over? Why is he leaving us like this?“ He asks the question we’re all asking every time we try achieving wholeness with a new year or relationship, job or routine. 

God proved that wiping the slate clean or wiping the world clean of the evil we do to each other won’t rid the world of evil unless there are no people in the world. In the book of Genesis we read the flood story. God rid the world of people, save Noah and his family, but Noah and his family gave birth to corruption and people who gave birth to the evils of history we all are aware of.

I love a good purge. I like to clean, put things where they go, and make ideal lists and goals. The problem is… life and me. Relationships and the rhythms of our lives are impacted by the brokenness in all of us. Trying to make things better is good. But we can never start over.  

So what am I to do in my quest for wholeness? Redemption and resurrection is my only hope for wholeness. 

The idea of redemption is that something broken is purchased and made good or whole again. The Bible tells me that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection purchased my broken life. I now live in that regenerating truth. No matter what happens, Jesus will make all things work for me to make me whole, like Jesus. 

I believe in the resurrection. I believe Jesus is the life that has overcome death. And I believe his resurrection life lives in me.

There’s an image in the Bible that always helps me capture this hope of resurrection. The tree. In the Bible, God’s people are depicted as his plantings, as trees whose roots go down deep and wide into the rich soil of God’s grace, mercy, truth and love. This tree is growing in us through a seed of faith in Christ. And it’s becoming a tree so big and massive, with a root system so wide, no weed, no storm, no disease can choke it out.

What about justice you ask? Shouldn’t we try to make things better and get rid of disease and abuse and corruption? Yes! Yes we should. But the way to do it is through redemption and hope in resurrection. It’s not through vengeance. It’s not through killing off evil with another abusive evil. It’s through Christ’s redeeming love. It’s through a subversive hope. It’s through planting yourself among the thorns of this life, sending your roots deep down into the love of Christ. Do this and your life will plant seeds of faith all around you and spring up new life in that same soil, choking out the poisonous weeds among you.

It’s a vulnerable life Jesus calls us to. In contrast to the self-preserving life that throws babies out with bathwater and wipes slates clean and cuts people off- it’s dangerous and even deadly. But it is the only way. It is the way Jesus is making all things new.

 The hope for our wholeness and the world is not a flood, or vaccine, not a new president or technology. The hope for the whole world and our wholeness is not marriage or singleness or a better local church or routine. The hope for our wholeness and the whole world is Christ’s redemption and resurrection. If we live in his redemption nothing is in vain- no evil, no pain, no suffering, no sin, no loss, no destruction, no disease. If Christ is our resurrection one day His tree of life will choke out all the weeds.

Looking to 2020 and the shalom beyond

double rainbow sunflowers 2018

My family is making fun of me tonight because I’m watching, for maybe the hundreded-and-eleventieth time, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.  When people ask me what my favorite of anything is I usually have a hard time picking one thing, but when it comes to movies, hands down, The Lord of the Rings series is my favorite!

Ending 2019 watching the Fellowship of the Ring seems fitting to me. In my heart I feel i’m living an epic tale of unlikely victory and bravery, uncommon grace and endurance, and unmatched friendship and fellowship.

I usually spend time reflecting on the year past, and praying for wisdom and help in the coming year. But tonight I spent a bit of time combing through a decade of photos on Facebook. Looking through all those images I see so much growth in the past 10 years. My sons have grown taller and more independent. Soon they’ll be out on their own. I miss the days of Legos on the floor and nap times. But tonight, while one son is with his friends, and the other has a friend over to stay the night, I realize a shift is happening.

In 2019 I was called into ministry to children and parents. I began to learn how to lead others. I started helping patients and their families as a case manager. My oldest son began driving, was in his first car accident, proclaimed his faith in Christ and was baptized, had his heart broken, and is trying to navigate the stormy waters of that transition from boy to man. My youngest grew taller and stronger and has been testing out the flex of his own strength. My husband began teaching and made our home’s curb appeal amazing. I wrote more articles this year than I thought I would, and I was a guest on a podcast about marriage. A lot of growth and stretch for all of us.

Part of me wants to shrink back from all this growth and change. I just want to pack up and go back to the shire. Adventures await me as I follow Jesus, and so does danger. There is no going back. My heart aches for a comfort and wholeness that won’t be found in the temporary comforts and deep joys I’ve experienced in life. But the times of safety and peace I have known give me glimpses of that shalom I’ll one day enter. One day I’ll reach the shire, but first I must press on in this adventure of following Jesus.

O Lord, come back to us!
How long will you delay?
Take pity on your servants!
Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love,
so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.
Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery!
Replace the evil years with good.
Let us, your servants, see you work again;
let our children see your glory.
And may the Lord our God show us his approval
and make our efforts successful.
Yes, make our efforts successful!

Psalm 90:13-17 NLT