My head-on encounter with redemption occurred in a most dramatic way as it relates to alcohol consumption.
Having been affected from my earliest years by extended-family alcoholism, I abhorred alcohol, and was frightened whenever I was in the presence of those who were drinking, worried that their drinking might affect their behavior, might make them “nasty” drunks.
The more “converted” I personally became in my faith journey, the more I felt called to pray against alcohol. (If I had lived one hundred years ago, I fear I would have joined the women activists in the prohibition/temperance movement.)
One day, when I was sharing, most passionately, my druthers that there was no such thing as “alcohol,” a very private, soft-spoken Christian friend stopped me short.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said. “Stop it.” Then she confided that her husband was a recovering alcoholic. “My husband and his recovering alcoholic friends are the nicest people you could ever meet. They have hearts of gold. God used their disease to cure them of other kinds of vices that you and I still have.”
Whoa…pause to think.
Funny. For a number of years, I had aspired to become an alcohol abuse counselor. Maybe it was good that my inquiries to become enrolled in state certification programs and/or to obtain entry-level positions in the field did not work out. Maybe my attitude was not right. Maybe that is why recovering alcoholics best minister to other recovering alcoholics.
Anyway, the story doesn’t end here.
One day, home sick, I was watching a spiritual show on television and was rather surprised when the interviewee explained how she recently had learned she was adopted. In her late forties, she had a relatively impersonal disdain for adoption and was feeling not at all convicted in her attitude until she sensed the Holy Spirit telling her it was time for her to learn the truth. Yes, she had been adopted. Yes, she was shocked to discover that truth. Yes, she could witness that sometimes the things we are most proud about being or not being are the things that God reveals, conversely, actually apply to us, in order to humble us, and to increase our compassion for those we look down upon.
Wow! I thought. That really is something. I felt empathy for the woman, and filed the show away, thinking I had never before come across anything like that….Always there was something new and more to learn about how God works, sometimes ironically!
Pause… Perhaps you are smarter than I. Perhaps you have already figured out that it was no accident that I was home, that I watched the show, that I was taken aback by what appeared to be holy (and wholly) ironic! …Perhaps you already have figured out the personal redemption encounter that has been an important part of my faith journey has to do with that episode…No. I’m not related to the woman, nor am I adopted…but here’s what I am, and it does have to do with my conception.
For some inexplicable reason, likely because she knew it would get back to me, and although I never “confronted” her with the truth, just a couple of years before her death, my mother revealed to my closest confidante that after four years of not being able to get pregnant, she finally was able to do so—with me–guess how–guess why?
Because it was New Year’s Eve and she was relaxed—and very inebriated.
Imagine. Me who abhorred alcohol. Me who was frightened by drinking. Me who wished there never were such a thing as alcohol live and breathe because of it. Ironic!
When I first learned the truth, I was dumbfounded. Then I thought of the woman whose story I had seen on television. And the woman who told me never to speak ill of alcoholics. And now, I look myself in the mirror and realize, as I have since the moment I learned the truth, that I am the product of alcohol-assisted (-induced?) conception.
So here’s my personal definition of redemption. Our Saving God can take anything—even something like alcohol, and use it for His good and ours, for His purpose–our redemption. And although, given my aversion to alcohol, I find it unfortunate that that is how I came to be, I count it as the first lesson in redemption. We need to be humble before God and wo/men. In and of ourselves, we are and have nothing to be proud or haughty about. In no way are we superior to other human beings. There are circumstances we have no control over, as in our own conception.
God has redeemed me. Has brought good out of alcohol/inebriation.
And once I learned that truth about myself, it has been easier to see the redemption in others’ lives–particularly regarding circumstances of conception. And it has been easier, too, to begin to understand that even in cases of rape, God loves and redeems the infant conceived in those circumstances. Even in cases of rape, now, I see that making judgments about who should/not be conceived or allowed to live is an encroachment on Divine Will and Grace. He will redeem if we allow Him. He will help the addicts, the convicts, the everyday holier-than-thou “good” people—He will redeem us all, in spite of ourselves, if we permit Him.
In that context, I love the following quote about redemption from someone who, when interviewed two years ago, said he is keeping his fingers and his heart crossed that he will not fall back into atheism. Let’s join him in praying for that intention.