The title “Between Redemption and the Pain” is a line from the section right before the second chorus of ‘Healed’. But this is more than just a striking line from one of the songs on the album. It really does tie these different songs together and give some insight into where my head and my heart were living during the writing of many of these songs. In some ways, this album also feels a bit like the culmination of a lot of life processing. Each song feels like an “Ebenezer”, an altar that was built to remind oneself of what God had done or revealed himself to be so that you could always look back and remember. These songs are sign posts along this journey that my faith has taken over the last couple of years. I’ll try and break it down using the three prominent words in the album title in a slightly different order:
BETWEEN: As strange as it may seem, this word is very core to the heart of the album. We live between so many different things: Life and death. The temporal and the eternal. Heaven and Earth. As Christians, we are a ‘new man’ that lives somewhere between the old man and our complete, glorified bodies to come. It is this perspective, that is tied very closely to the “Already and the Not Yet” aspect of salvation and the Kingdom of God, that finally helped me understand this Christian faith in a way that made sense in the struggles of this life. The knowledge that I am not who I was, but also not who I will be, was such an encouragement in times of struggle with sin and gave hope of overcoming it. The knowledge that life is not as it should be, but also not as it will be, finally made sense out of so much injustice that I saw in my own life and in the world around me.
We so often try to ignore this tension because it is a messy process and doesn’t look like that neat and tidy Christian life/person we’ve heard we should be. We feel the pressure to show everyone that we have arrived, that we have achieved, which ironically goes against so much of what Christ calls us to. Rather, Christ calls us to live in the grace and dependence of a process of sanctification that will last our entire lives. If we learn to truly live in this grace, it promotes authenticity, freedom and love, rather than hypocrisy, addiction and fear. This is the starting point of the album and of my revived faith. It is the most freeing preposition I know because it allows me to be where I am and honestly meet God there. It is what has allowed me to experience God’s endless love as all-encompassing in any situation, and provides motivation and direction to the pursuit of a faith and hope that actually speak into the realities of this life.
PAIN: Ever since the beginning of time, when life was initially stained and broken by sin, pain has been a reality that cannot be ignored. And yet we try so hard to deny the pain of this life. We busy ourselves with work or pleasure, distract ourselves with addictions and try and surround ourselves with enough comfort to drown out that nagging voice that constantly reminds us that this life is not as it should be. Somehow the ‘prosperity gospel’ has seeped into much of our thinking and we seem to have forgotten Christ’s reminder that “… in the world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” All it takes is an honest look around us and within us to see the effects of sin, abuse, neglect and to ignore them is to merely live in denial
The irony in it all is that, by ignoring the pain, we rob ourselves of the opportunity of encountering a hope and redemption that are real in the face of life’s struggles. By making happiness and prosperity the ultimate goals of the Christian life, we are actually missing out on intimate aspects of God’s character. We can never experience Him as a healer if we are never wounded. We can never experience the resurrection without the death. Those who experience pain (in the right context) actually get a beautiful insight into eternity. We shouldn’t be seeking out pain, but the more pain one experiences in this life, the more glorious eternity must be to “wipe away every tear.” Ultimately, it is a call to honest, integrity in both the good and the bad, to avoid the denial and enter into the pain of life with our Savior who died to redeem it all.
REDEMPTION: This one word has grown into such a beautiful and significant word to me over the last couple of years. After many years of being so motivated to do ‘the right thing’, I found myself further and further away from the perfection I struggled to attain. At the same time, I found myself getting deeper into the things I was trying to avoid in my search for perfection. It took some very dark moments to finally open my eyes to the reality that there is something so much more beautiful than perfection: redemption. It is what gives purpose to the pain. It is what gives significance to the sorrow. And it is what makes grace so good.
Christ didn’t die and rise again to make us, or this world, perfect. He came to recreate everything into something so much more beautiful than it could ever be through our own doing. We get to taste this redemption in our salvation and sanctification, and if we keep our eyes open for it, there are so many hints of God’s Redemption all throughout this broken world. Even the brokenness itself can be a beautiful hint of redemption, knowing that death brings resurrection. With our minds set on eternity, we can persevere through the pain, knowing that, regardless of how hard it gets in this life, it will all be redeemed and more glorious that we could ever ask or imagine. The temporal is just that, temporal. Through the work of Christ, redemption is going to take everything that the human race has messed up and make it beautiful again. And this beauty will last for all eternity.
Nothing says it better than 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”