This is What Redemption Looks Like
Sitting in a room, in the most unlikely of places, I look up at the six people staring at me. They want answers, they want to understand, they seek perspective.
I give it all to them. An hour meeting. I’ve sweat through my undershirt. But I’ve also made sense of the questions. I’ve proven myself to an unsuspecting audience. I’ve taught and inspired and moved them all, with humility and respect and awe for the process.
The phone rings. I answer. They make me an offer.
This should be the culmination of months, no, years, of turmoil, pain and searching. This should be the moment when I breath a sigh of relief and smile. This should be when I feel free of the mess that was my own creating. This should be redemption.
And, in many ways, it is.
But redemption doesn’t always feel like what you expected it to.
I hang up the phone. And while my head is telling me to smile, to shed tears of happiness, instead all I want to do is shed tears of pain. In place of excitement I feel exasperation, in place of happiness I feel hurt.
When Israel left Egypt, they were leaving behind bondage and idolatry. They had every reason to go. And yet, we are taught that not all of them did. Most, in fact, stayed behind. The pain of the known is easier than the uncertainty of the unknown. And even those who left experienced regret. They considered reversing their decision countless times. They longed for what was, even if it never was as good as they remembered.
In the Israelites’ move to a better future, they still had to deal with the loss of leaving a past behind. Their redemption was not all timbrels and dancing.
And neither was mine.
I know that a better future awaits me. I know I have opened for myself the possibilities to better represent a true understanding of who I am and what I believe. I know that I am now being sought by powerful people and institutions which all believe in me.
That’s humbling, and special, and nice.
But when I got that phone call Thursday night, and my heart ripped open in that moment of supposed-jubilation, I mourned the loss of the reality that was supposed to be.
Dreamers have trouble remembering to not mix-up reality and fantasy. And yet just this mistake is what led Joseph to become second in command to Pharaoh!
Egypt was supposed to be the land of plenty, the land of opportunity and growth and possibility. But it was not. And that reality may be clear as day, but the dream is hard to put to rest.
This is what redemption looks like. Happy from the outside and ostensibly positive, but still mixed with lots of pain and questioning and wrestling.
This is how it has to be. It makes perfect sense. As a good lyricist once wrote, “‘Cause breaking up is hard to do.” All the more so when you’re breaking up with the dream of what your life was supposed to be.
Even if in its place you get a new dream, and a better one at that.