Redeeming the Pain of the Past

Once a week I compile the reflections I’ve offered on Facebook into one blogpost. Here are the thoughts from the past five days:

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

I listened to a great interview between Kevin Kelly, co-founder of WIRED magazine, and Krista Tippett about technology and spirituality. His comments on how the Amish decide when to permit new technology were particularly insightful as we think about how to use technology within our family. A lot of it comes down to asking questions–what purpose does this serve? Does it enhance the larger vision/goal/purpose we have for our family or does it diminish them? (He gives the example of using horses because they intentionally limit the number of miles you can travel because that supports other goals of the community, namely relationships.)

He also talked about how machines are very good at giving answers but really don’t know how to ask questions. Humans–inefficient, vulnerable, unpredictable humans–are very good at asking questions.

It’s kind of cool to think about asking questions as a distinctly human trait, and one that is hard to replicate. It’s one that starts almost as soon as we can talk and continues for our entire lives.

Years ago, it struck me all at once that the Bible is full of questions. In particular, I noticed how in chapter after chapter of the gospels Jesus asks questions and people ask him questions about the smallest details and their biggest concerns.

In an age of easy answers and googleable everything, this is a good reminder to me to take the time to ask and listen to questions and consider what the questions (and not just the answers) tell me about who we are as humans.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

I’m preparing for a talk about parenting, which is really going to be a talk about identity, for Saturday night (in Fairfield, CT), and I came across this quotation from Stanley Hauerwas in Living Gently in a Violent World: “We believe we should be held responsible only for things we freely chose when we knew what we were doing… How do we ever know what we are doing when we promise lifelong monogamous fidelity? Christians are required to marry before witnesses in a church so we can hold them to the promises they made when they didn’t know what they were doing. If marriage renders this understanding of freedom unintelligible, try having children. You never get the ones you wanted.”

But if we receive the children we are given, we discover the gift of not knowing what we are doing and trusting in a Love that is greater than ourselves.

Friday, January 26, 2018

When I was in high school and college, I threw up almost every day. It’s a long story, but I had a paralyzed stomach that wouldn’t process food and I developed all the behavior of someone with a severe eating disorder. It was a physical, emotional, and spiritual problem. I am so grateful to say that I experienced tremendous healing over the course of many years of work–healing that was physical, emotional, and spiritual in nature. By the time I graduated from college, not only did I no longer throw up my food but I enjoyed food, felt grateful for the health and strength of my body (at least most of the time), didn’t weigh myself and didn’t obsess about food or body image.

But then, five years ago, after giving birth to three children and discovering the delight of Chardonnay and neglecting exercise and continuing to enjoy french fries and pizza and nachos at a rate that doesn’t go well with an aging/slowing metabolism, I was gaining weight. And I felt crappy about myself.

Still, the only way I had ever lost weight in the past had been through an eating disorder. I wasn’t willing to go back there. I would rather end up 50 pounds overweight with knee problems than go back to the emaciated, hospitalized kid I was my freshman year in college.

Thankfully, a few friends intervened and said gently, “Maybe there’s a different way.” Somehow it was shocking to me to consider that starvation/bulimia and indulgence/weight gain weren’t the only options. There was another way. To eat healthily. To enjoy food. To eat french fries and drink Chardonnay, sometimes. In moderation. To give thanks for the goodness of it.

I did lose weight, slowly. But this new approach to eating (and drinking) and exercise also seemed like an opportunity for redemption. I went back to a place that in the past was a place of pain and destruction, and it became a place of healing and wholeness, of blessing for me and for others.

There are certainly painful experiences of the past that should never be revisited. But there are also painful experiences from our past that we are given the opportunity to return to in order to approach them differently, that we can ask God to redeem.

The dictionary shows two definitions for redemption. One, there’s “the action of saving or being saved.” Two, “the action of gaining or regaining possession of something.” God is all about redemption from harm, healing (which in Greek is a word closely related to saving) the wounds of the past, about regaining possession of what has seemed lost forever.