December 11, 2014

Keeping This Covenant - Redemption


One of my all-time favorite stories is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis. Throughout the story, we watch as the bratty boy Eustace lives in selfishness and pride. Then, by a terrible choice, Eustace is transformed into a dragon. He longs to be human again. To undo his mistakes. To take everything back. Alone, dragon Eustace cries hot heavy tears. It is in this state that Aslan meets him and leads him to a pool of water. To be free from his scales, Eustace knows that he must bathe in the water, but Aslan tells him that he must be undressed first. In vain, Eustace scrapes his scales, once, twice, three times...but they will not come undone. He cannot shed his dragon skin on his own. 


“You will have to let me undress you,” says Aslan the Lion.
Eustace's pain and loneliness was so great that he set aside his fear of this great lion and allowed him to undress him from his scales. As Aslan scrapes his scales away, the previously bratty boy Eustace said, “The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart.”  Tossed in the water, scraped clean, a boy emerged from the pool. Redeemed. Restored. Forgiven. Eustace was never the same after his encounter with Aslan. 

Re-birth is painful. Breaking free from bondage and breathing clean air has a steep price. Your old life, your old habits, your old patterns...they must be ripped away for a new thing to take place. To be restored you must acknowledge that you are broken. To be renewed you must put aside the old. To be re-born you must die. 
~

Marriage brings out the dragon in me. The selfish, prideful dragon who blames everybody but the true culprit. Living closely with another human, keeping a home with another human, has peeled back every layer of false decency I have ever possessed and revealed a roaring dragon who likes to get her way. Before a husband was ever in my wildest dreams, I knew the dragon existed...but oh how easy were those days when I could hide behind my walls and never let anyone see just what really lies beneath the surface of my heart. In marriage, I am no longer afforded the luxury of retreating into myself and hiding away. I am exposed, and my flaws are revealed. 

I have scraped and scraped these scales away. Clawed off layer after layer, only to reveal another layer of scales that will never budge. On my own, all of these efforts have only led to frustration and hot, heavy tears. On my own, I have been left with sleepless nights and a million questions, blaming everyone but myself and seeing problems everywhere but where they truly exist...beneath my layer of dragon scales. To be free from the burden of selfishness and greed, to love others without the limits of self-interest, to be re-born and restored... what an awakening this process entails. 

Within these words, I mention marriage because it has been the mirror turned on my face, revealing an ugly side I never even knew existed. I mention marriage because it has revealed just how selfish we can be, even in the best of relationships. I mention marriage, because vowing your life to another, binding your world onto theirs, forces you to be unselfish, and the process is much more painful then I ever would have imagined. I mention marriage because it has been the vessel in which I have seen myself more clearly. 

Indeed, marriage is the mirror, but in itself it does not heal. I don't buy the "self-help" hype because I don't buy the idea that we exist purely to exist and create the best possible world for us. My core identity, my theology, my DNA is interwoven with the belief system and the faith that we were created for so much more. We were created. And if we were created, then I believe that there is a Creator, and oh how that story is so fantastic and so marvelous that my words will never be enough to explain it all. Needless to say, I believe that the Creator can redeem and restore when my hands cannot. He can scrape away the dragon scales, piercing my very heart, to reveal a new person, a new heart, a fresh page. 

It is through marriage that the depth of redemption is being revealed in my life. Through this union that I am seeing just how far my husband will go to forgive me. Just how far I will go to forgive him. Through this union, I am catching a glimpse of just how far God has gone to forgive us. To redeem us. To scrape off the old and make us new. Through this [painful] process, I am learning that this covenant we have made completely depends on the third wheel to survive. On our own, we would continue to fail over and over again. But with God, all things are possible. With him, we can embrace the forgiveness and the redemption we have been offered and somehow, in the smallest of ways, learn how to extend it to each other. 

This series is titled, "Keeping this Covenant." It is the real-time journey of my walk through marriage. I am not a wizened old pro sitting in a smoky room offering elusive advice. Rather, I am sitting in a 750 sq. ft. apartment watching a football movie and embracing the joy that comes after a tough moment has broken through. Good weeks, hard weeks, joy, and pain...we feel it all in our daily lives. Today, I am embracing the topic of redemption. This is my heart on the subject, these are the lessons I am learning. 

Redemption will take your life. On the path to a holy marriage, it is in the painful painful moments when I glance back and see just how much I have lost. I have lost the ability to answer only to myself, making decisions that will only affect me, choosing roads that I can only walk down alone. I have lost the ability to hold onto bitterness without letting anyone know, the option of being selfish and not letting anyone see. Through marriage, the old is exposed, through Christ, I am being redeemed...together, in marriage and in Christ, I am being transformed. The old life is slowly slipping away. I hold onto it often, my fingers clench onto my selfishness and it takes much prying to loosen them up, but I can feel the process happening. 

Redemption requires you to die to self. One of the definitions in the dictionary for the word redemption is, "the buying back of something that has been lost." To live in sin is to be lost. To choose selfishness over love is to be lost. To live for self is to be lost. We have been bought back at a steep price so that we may no longer be lost. Soak those words in. Read them over and over again. We have been redeemed so that we may no longer be lost. In today's world, marriage isn't esteemed very highly. The act of marriage is old fashioned and the vows of marriage are antiquated. Often, it seems as though marriage is a ceremony that ends before the couple cuts the cake. I choose to believe that there is more to this covenant than this. I am choosing to see the beautiful joy found in honoring another person with your life. In serving God with your hearts and your hands. I choose to see how we, two broken individuals, are being redeemed by God's grace and folded into a story together that is greater and more beautiful than we ever could have imagined on our own. We have been bought at a steep price, but we don't have to be lost any longer. 


Redemption is different than forgiveness. In the hurt that comes with marriage; the family hurt, the personal hurt, the life hurt... there are so many chances to forgive. People screw up all the time. Deeply, personally, our lives have been changed by big choices and massive consequences. The act of forgiveness, telling someone that you forgive them, and really meaning it, is freeing. The longing for redemption we feel in those moments, when it is denied, is heartbreaking. When we long for redemption, we long for things to be made new. Sometimes, often, other people aren't willing or ready for that renewal. So we live in the forgiveness, forgiving them over and over again even though they may never change and the deep process of redemption is denied. In this small way, I wonder what the heartbreak of God must be like. To love us deeply, to forgive us over and over again, and to be denied the renewal that restores relationships. I can't control what other people do. I can't control the consequences of other people's actions or the ways in which they will affect my life..but I can control what I am willing to offer, extend, and accept. I choose the heartache of rejection. I choose the sorrow of a lost relationship. I choose forgiveness. I choose the hope of redemption over the hurt of bitterness. Forgiveness is the action we take to extend grace, redemption is the restoration of what was into something new and beautiful. 


~

I am thankful for marriage, thankful for this mirror being held up to my life and allowing me to see just how many scales need to be peeled back. The dragon still roars, clinging to a lifestyle that honors me and find the path that is best for me, but daily I am thirsting for the painful process of re-birth. I want to be scraped clean from the things that hinder my relationships. I want to be sensitive to the breath of God and the nature of his heart. Marriage is teaching me, daily, what it costs to die to self. Just as we joined hands and became as one, so we are one with Christ through his redemption of our sins. Just as I am daily seeking forgiveness and renewal within my marriage, so I am in this holy union and relationship with God. Just as Christ has offered freedom to us, so undeservedly, so I see freedom offered to me by my husband so undeservedly. I see Jesus through this journey. It's tough at times. Re-birth usually is. It's scary, difficult, and painful...but I will continue to pray that we may be ever aware of our need for redemption, our scaly nature, and more importantly, the freedom that is waiting just a breath away. 


Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
2 Corinthians 5:17