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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

On Redemption

Okay, so it's kind of an immodest title. I know that more intelligent people (past and present...mostly past) have handled the subject with a lot more ability. But Redemption is something I think I only recently found and have begun to understand. It's an area where experience has to catch up with knowledge. I'm getting there.

And it's appropriate for a first post. I'm a social media marketer by profession and I think blogs are both my favorite social medium and the weirdest. Blogs allow a lot of freedom but that can result in some really unusual stuff. A blog seems to be somewhere near the intersection of journal, editorial, conversation, and confessional.

That's a lot to ask. But so is reading someone else's blog.

In the past six months, thanks to some amazing reads, meditation & prayer, and time (thank you, 2-hour daily commute to Chicago), I've experienced a huge growth in introspection. And I've realized a few things.

 "Christian" lies I thought were true about life:
1) You should love God but hate the self
2) Your sin/vices/compulsions are things to be overcome
3) Christians are called to gradually grow to resemble each other as placid, emotionless automatons

This is not Christianity. It's not truth.

Martin Luther expounded #1 in his 95 Theses (What would a Catholic's blog about religion and culture be without a correction of Luther?). I didn't pick up that idea from Luther but somewhere along the way I accepted this as truth, that I was just awful and that becoming a good person, detached and saintly, meant hating yourself. Or at least part of yourself.

This goes right into #2 - overcoming the worst parts of yourself. It's easy to think that we're whole persons meant to encourage certain attributes and qualities in ourselves and suppress others. There's at least some truth here: not every part of our selves needs to be given license to control us. But thinking compulsions can be overcome is ultimately garbage and I've never found true liberation from living it, even in my best moments.

Instead, we have many different selves. I have a patient self, a good listener self, etc. that people like and I've decided to embrace. But I also have a prideful self. A judging self. A perfectionist self who naturally reacts to "imperfection" with anger. These selves don't need to be fueled but they do need something: acknowledgment. They need to be named and they need to be given a permanent place at the table.

Without this they're hiding in the dark corner, unable to be seen yet impossibly present. These parts of me - and the ugly parts of anyone - need to be accepted. Sin needs to be accepted! My whole self needs to be accepted, and your whole self needs your acceptance.

Don't misunderstand me, I'm not arguing for uncontrolled vice. But if our Creator made every part of us and can accept us just as we are, shouldn't we do the same? It's the only way to redeem it.

And #3 - once we begin to experience redemption we can become more of our true selves.

The Christian life is about becoming a truer version of you! C. S. Lewis says this all the time. (Fun fact: it's a city ordinance that you can't live in Wheaton without referencing him at least once a month.) You've no idea how liberating that has been for me, to know that I wasn't called to not be rule-following, perfectionistic (my siblings would say "anal"), patient, good-listening - all of it - Sam. I'm called to be the best version of all these qualities.

It's easy to hear about the saints and think how selfless they were and then conclude that they had no selves at all. No, they did. And they used their vices as part of their saintly selves. They didn't overcome them but accepted the best part of them.

St. Paul was a fiery perfectionist. St. Ignatius of Loyola was a glutton for discipline. And that's okay. That was their fullest version and they used those qualities in a redeemed way.

Redemption has meant self-acceptance. I'd compare it to meeting someone on the street who says they know you, know everything about you, and still love you unconditionally. If you could get over how weird that would be and that it was just a little bit creepy, the beauty of it would overwhelm you. I'm learning from experience.

Does this ring true to you? Or maybe you see Redemption differently?


  1. LOVE the blog title! Very clever. :) And yes, quoting CSL at least once a month is definitely a Wheaton resident rule. :) Glad you got this blog up and running, Sam. Blessings on you and it.

  2. Thanks, Laura! Hope it proves interesting.