I think the factor on which the definition of redemption hinges is the definition of suffering. That is, your suffering is not my suffering, and my suffering is not your suffering – we all struggle with different things, we are all scarred by different things, we react to different things.
The nature of testimonies is that they differ – one person’s testimony is one that happened outside of the church, with drug and alcohol addiction, pornography, sexual addiction, etc. Another’s is that they grew up in church, got tired of it, left, and eventually came back.
I’m going to be honest – I hate my testimony. I don’t hate my testimony because it isn’t a good story – I hate it because it doesn’t seem right to me. It’s the classic case of the struggle with grace: if my story were someone else’s, I’d have no problem with it and I’d applaud the goodness of God through it – but because it’s me, I have a harder time accepting it.
I have a hard time accepting that a guy who followed Jesus for nine and a half years could throw it out the window (after he knew so much better) abandon the morals and values that a wonderful group of people instilled in him, and then begin to mock the very institution (the church) that made him the way he is, or was.
It infuriates me.
But only because it’s me.
But, on the other hand, I’ve forged a path long enough to know that it’s a dead end.
I’ve forged a path where I try to strike some balance between the intense negative feelings I’ve had in the last year – fear, anger, bitterness, worry, anxiety, vitriol, personal injustice, jealousy, envy, etc – and the older fruits I once bore – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; trying to return to those fruits, but allowing them to be stained with the cynicism, doubt, and unbelief that got me into the mess.
That misses the point of radical grace, and I know that well enough to know it.
So, like I usually do, I write this without an end in mind, but with a move in mind – I know that it’s not all going to change overnight, but I know it changes with an encounter with Jesus – I know that I’ll never understand forgiveness until I experience His again. And, I know that He wouldn’t ask His disciples to forgive their brother seventy times seven if He wouldn’t do so Himself, with the same intensity, the same love, the same clean slate every single time.