“There’s nothing too dirty that You can’t make worthy. You wash me in mercy. I am clean.”- Natalie Grant
“But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”- 1 Corinthians 6:11
A painting of two swans serenely resting in a secluded forest stream at sunset graced the living room of Victor and Erma Miller, Vicki’s parents, for over fifty years. The artwork was created in 1935 by a family friend, F. J. Zenk, as a wedding present.
Over those fifty years the forest scene darkened from accumulated exposure to pollution from coal and oil heat. The swans turned gray, the birch trees blended in, and the sun had set. The most prominent feature of the painting was its gilded wood frame.
After Vicki inherited the painting, we had it restored and reframed by Landmarks Gallery (Milwaukee, Wisconsin). They painstakingly cleaned the work inch by inch, using chemicals compatible with paint available in 1935, to reveal the hidden beauty underneath.
How would you define redemption in terms of your ministry downsizing or vocation loss? Matt Bays (Finding God in the Ruins) asserts that, contrary to what we have been told, “redemption is not an escape but rather a journey.” It is a painstaking, piece by piece process. As we ask the Lord to “wash me in mercy” and embark on rewriting our story, our healing gift of redemption emerges. Pastor Bays describes four characteristics of the redeemed:
- The redeemed acknowledge, to the best of their ability, the harsh reality of their broken story.
- The redeemed accept that while their pain does not define them, it does define the power of their redemption.
- The redeemed somehow manage to find God in the ruins.
- The redeemed have the capacity to be reasonably happy despite their pain and permit God to use their brokenness for good.
Finding God in the ruins not only changes your story, but also illuminates the darkness for others and offers the promise of hope. Pastor Bays concludes:
“Each of us has a calling that comes from the core ache within us- a calling to write with our lives the beautiful stories of God’s redemption. To remind others that all of our pain has been regulated. So when hopelessness seems to have had the last word, the love of God instead, which has been written on our hearts, will set God’s redemption loose . . .”