I was 123 dollars short for rent for the Month of May.
I emailed my landlord, Peter O’Malley the most business professional email you can fathom, to which he responded that he remembered what it was like when he was once young and struggling to pay rent. He would work with me, he said.
I got a text last night from my friend LaDawn. She said, “hey, I have money for you to help with your rent.” It was offered to her from a local church’s benevolence fund which she turned down, but when she found out I was short, she called them back and asked if they could give the money to me instead.
When I had no money for food or gas a few months ago, because every penny was allotted to pay for housing, LaDawn had been the one to buy me a sausage egg McMuffin and fill my tank up with gas.
This is a post regarding the redemptive characteristic of graciousness, which comes as a response from God I believe, to human beings who find themselves vulnerable. Though I despise my need, I have found that perhaps it is through bearing the scorn of poverty that I am able to see the rich benevolence of God in my life. Therefore I wish to somehow consider His graciousness and likewise respond to it. (This graciousness which then lifts me out of poverty; for I find that it is in the act of receiving graciousness that I am made rich. I am not abandoned or left empty handed.)
Moreover the graciousness itself is more prevailing than the provision of shelter and a habitat or the Egg McMuffin in my belly.
Firstly, I wish to expound on the word, ‘redemptive.’ And to explain why I have chosen to use this word. I have been confronted recently with a warranted distaste for a story which jumps too quickly to the “good feeling.” There is a tendency to slip up as a writer I think, when one ties a pretty bow on every raw ache and calls it a day.
Human existence, however, has begged for redemption. The demand for it is there, whether we realize it or not. This indefinite vulnerability to want, need, pain, physical breakdown and the like calls it forth.
So why is the satisfaction or fulfillment of a desire in itself not necessarily what we look for in a good story? Why is the “good ending” not enough to appease our literary appetite?
Here is my choosing of the word ‘redemptive’: I see it as a thread which is carried through the whole of human experience, which pays little respect for the successful triumph of the satisfied and does not intend to simply fill the empty glass of a wine-bibber. Somehow I think God’s character makes the story what it will be, and that is good.
When I consider my life in context of an ever expanding, unforeseen and yet ancient tale: a real, living story, containing both the bitter and the sweet, I have this awareness that it all doesn’t come together neatly and nicely in the end. When I think of my own life, I know that the good times do not taste like cotton candy. I do not expect that it will all come together neatly and nicely for me around the bend.
I have lived long enough in this body and with this soul and in this world to know that it’s not a neat or a nice place, that my body itself is not neat or polite (bodily functions anyone?) and that the soul I am inseparably bound to craves and wants and hopes things which all conflict in a way that when woven together with everybody else’s conflicts and bodies and souls and common histories, create a rather sad story of rich complexity.
So when I speak about God’s character being redemptive, I do not mean God is simply making an uncomfortable situation better.
I did look up the word, like a good preacher would, but was led on a goose chase from redemptive to redemption to redeeming and the only words in the box beneath redeeming were as follows: “serving to offset or compensate for a defect.”
I’m not sure, but the reason I brought all this up, is to justify me using the word redemptive so as not to be perceived as cheating myself. Yay, your rent was covered, your belly was filled: It’s a good, happy story! But I don’t think that’s the point.
So this is what I meant by calling God’s graciousness redemptive: this grace is pervasive, it is prevailing, it comes up time and time again as a response to human vulnerability and this grace doesn’t simply sweep our apparent and disturbing excrescences under the rug. But it is an appeasing thing for this one vulnerable person to come into contact with this other kind of person, who seems to be quite holy. (lacking nothing). When this kind of fullness and other-than-ness, rubs up against the mortal and all of his need and decay and unresolved hopes and desires, it is something of a mystery of what you get. It is not quite a fine and dandy story with a glowy, happy ending. It is as devastating as the ground opening up and swallowing up bodies and as surprising as a once very dead man takes off his bindings and accepts both breath and hunger again.