Each year, instead of “resolutions,” I try to think of a theme word or idea to frame my year. Well, for 2015, that’s “Redemption.”
Now, before I jump into what that means and what I hope that looks like, I should explain what that doesn’t mean. I’m not talking about “redemption” in the sense of being vindicated for wrongs done to me or mistakes I’ve made. I’m not on some warpath of vengeance or quest to re-create myself in others’ eyes. Nor do I mean “redemption” in the sense of coming to faith or being redeemed from my sin; praise the Lord for His redemption in my life, but that’s not quite my theme of the year (though His redemption is the foundation from which I hope to live with this theme of redemption).
Actually, “redemption” as my theme for the year came from two different generative themes I’d been noticing and challenged with at the end of last year: redeeming moments of time and seeing through a redemptive lens. So technically, “redeeming” and “redemptive” are the themes, but they’re probably better lumped together under the more general term that I’m going with. Both of these ideas came from a one-week intensive class I took in November up at HoneyRock, Wheaton’s summer camp and retreat center in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.
Redeeming Moments of Time
The first idea is the main thrust of this post: redeeming moments of time. It came from a video clip we watched of the famous “This Is Water” graduation speech by David Foster Wallace illustrated memorably. It’s a really good video—just an excerpt of his address—so if you have 10 minutes, I’d encourage you to watch it.
I love his humor and self-deprecating tone—I feel like we might have been friends if we’d have ever met. He talks about what really awaits these college graduates in day in, day out life: “boredom, routine, and petty frustration.” He explains that these mundane moments allow us to choose how to think and how to react and live, and how choosing to respond eventually becomes a “natural default setting.” Disclaimer: I don’t think we attribute meaning and Truth in the world, so I disagree with some of Wallace’s overarching philosophy, but I do think so much of life is a choice of how I will respond, how I will live out my faith, how I will engage and love. He humorously gets at our common reactions to lines, traffic and general annoyances…or at least how I impatiently tend to respond before concluding that everyone must be incompetent (I know: I’m the worst).
We discussed Wallace’s talk, moving toward our own ability as believers to “redeem moments of time.” On a very practical level, I knew that was something I need to work on. Somehow I started buying into the selfish and narcissistic lie that my time was more important than everyone else’s who is stuck in traffic on the highway, and it’s gotten worse over the past few years. Now, I don’t want to be too hard on myself—traffic in Honolulu is maddening. I don’t know how else to describe it. It was voted worst in the nation a couple years ago, and logic fails me as to why that is so true when the city of LA has literally 10 times the population as the whole state of Hawaii, much less the island of Oahu and the city of Honolulu.
I can’t put all the blame on the roads in Hawaii—I’ve failed miserably at redeeming moments of time on my own, choosing to stand impatiently in line instead of offering to help the person next to me or give grace to people I encounter. But I can see how I let something as inevitable as senseless Honolulu traffic drive me crazy, losing sight of the moments of time it gave me to sit and reflect, pray, or listen to music as loudly as I wanted without having to worry about bothering roommates.
That’s just one example. However, when I watched Wallace’s video and we reframed his simple idea in terms of our faith, I realized that by attempting to intentionally redeem various moments of time throughout the day, I could reflect Jesus a lot more consistently. I think those small moments matter—not just the ones where we’re speaking to crowds or encouraging a friend—in that they allow us to be Him to the world when it’s least scripted and when the world least expects to meet Jesus.
I’m definitely still working on what this practically looks like in my daily life, but last night on my drive to small group, I had an opportunity to consciously choose to redeem moments of time in my car. Another driver tailed me really closely and then cut me off, despite the fact that it was snowing in Illinois and I clearly have Texas plates. Sidenote: I’m not sure what people expect from me—I expect them to see the Texas plates, roll their eyes and mutter about dumb southerners, and move around me on their way, but apparently people aren’t making those connections.
Anyway, as the driver passed me, I noticed that he had the window cracked because he was smoking. Typical, I thought. It’s freezing and you’re willing to keep your window down because you have to smoke. I have pretty strong feelings about smoking…I’m all for the freedoms we have in this country to make wise or dumb choices, but to me, smoking is asking for cancer. Though I have compassion for many things, voluntary cancer is not one of them. However, as I rolled my eyes and made judgments about the driver, I remembered that I’m supposed to be working to redeem moments of time this year.
Feeling foolish and humbled, I prayed for the driver, and it was kind of a cool moment to realize I had the opportunity to pray that someone would step into his life and encourage him to quit (because cancer sucks). He’s probably a wonderful human, so I don’t want to sound self-righteous here, like, “Because I am so very much better than you, I shall deign to pray for your soul.” In reality, I realized that instead of rolling my eyes and scorning people who head down the path to “voluntary cancer,” I could pray that they’d be able to quit. To broaden that, instead of resigning people to their fate, I can pray that God would put people in their lives to encourage them.
That’s one minor example. Who knows how that man’s story will continue or what will happen. However, the rest of my drive to small group was redeemed, no longer a ride dwelling on the “incompetence” all around me, sitting in my arrogant self-importance, but rather one in which I recognized that even when I can’t reclaim the moment to treat people well face to face, I can choose to redeem moments of time, remembering God is at work in the most mundane details of our lives, shifting my attitude and focus.
Just as I believe we so often have to choose joy (or choose to play the “Glad Game”) I think redeeming moments of time is a choice…one that I hope will eventually become such a habit that it will come more naturally, becoming my “natural default setting.” Next time, I’ll share more about the second half of my theme for the year: seeing the world through a redemptive lens.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,