“Wait! What? You’re telling me that if we take all of these bottles to this place they will give us money?!” This was my exuberant revelatory response when I learned for the first time you could redeem bottles for cash. My very young entrepreneur brain was on fire with the possibilities of making some ‘serious cash’ by going around my neighborhood collecting empty bottles (don’t even get me started about how thrilled I was when I learned you could do the same thing with cans!).
And while the cash was good, there was in fact a fundamental world view that began to germinate in me through the experience of taking something that just as easily could have been discarded, but was instead redeemed for a second chance. At its core, the act of redeeming something is to choose recovery and restoration over discard and dispose. It is through making that choice that we are lead to action. And that action leads to what could have been ‘left for dead’ instead being given the possibility of a whole new life.
The challenge is our world often chooses ‘throw away’ over redeem. In my experience, we especially choose this posture with those who hurt us, disagree with us, or those we experience as different from us. Recently I was helping an individual who is in work transition. Part of the challenge is this person was let go ‘for cause’. The individual fully acknowledges their inappropriate behavior and is taking serious steps to change how they engage with others. And while their previous employer has given them a benign recommendation, all other colleagues have completely distanced themselves. Unfortunately, I have a file full of these stories where folks feel kicked to the curb at best or at worst completely ostracized.
From a very young age I have been a big fan of the trilogy of the lost stories in the Gospels: Lost Coin, Lost Sheep, and Lost Son. Each narrative describes a transformative experience of redemption for all those involved with that which has been lost. This is the real power of redemption. Taking what is broken, damaged, appears to be no longer needed or useful and transforming it into something filled with possibilities of new and maybe ever greater potential – new life!
In so many ways, our world feels like it is in desperate need for /of redeeming: relationships, communities, cultures, creation. And I believe it all begins with relationships. It is critical we see the intrinsic value and worth in all, starting with ourselves. If we are unable to see ourselves worthy of redemption, then it will most likely be very difficult to engage others in a redemptive experience.
I received 5¢ for every bottle I returned to the store and felt like I won the lottery every time. Yet so much more importantly it began the transformative paradigm shift in my thinking that all things have the capacity of being redeemed. All are worthy of the opportunity of new life and new possibility!
“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.” – L.R. Knost