When Redemption Wins: From my backyard…

I’d been sitting there, staring at this squirrel, watching and listening as he jumped from tree to tree, chatting about goodness knows what with whoever or whatever, for about 10 minutes. And suddenly I realized I’d been doing so–realized that for 10 minutes, I’d thought of nothing else but that squirrel. And the warmth of an early spring sun beating down on my face and legs and shoulders. And how amused I was at his chattering.

Honestly it was the emptiest my brain has been, the most “at rest” it has been in longer than I can remember. For a blessed 10 minutes, only one browser tab was open on the desktop of my brain. And when I finally broke away from the squirrel-induced reverie, I actually felt like a wee bit of peace and quiet had settled across my soul.

This is not something I take for granted. Not at all.

I crave quiet and still at this stage of my life. It’s rare, and that’s something to be thankful for on the one hand–it is the result of a very full and very busy and very, in many ways, blessed existence. It is also something that wears at me…because finding quiet and still is hard. No matter who you are. But for me especially, and perhaps you, it’s hard because I am always, it seems, “on.” I’m either (and always this first) Julie, mom; Julie, development professional; Julie, writer who does not write enough; Julie, (fill in the blank with other roles in my life or yours). And so my brain tracks accordingly. Always on.

And I am forever thinking “big picture.” Wondering how in the world it is that we, collectively, right the ship we’re all on in this country, and this world–one that seems bound to wreck itself because we cannot get over our own interests or desires or fears long enough to see that our salvation as a whole people rests entirely and completely in the willingness to see the Holy–to see God–in one another.

I struggle to see this, even as I know it is true. On the daily. Maybe you do too.

Anyway, I think my point is this: we fuel our own anxiety so often. Technology makes this worse. Social media certainly does. Last night I picked up my phone, not even thinking about it, to scroll through and once I got to the umpteenth bit of political snark, the millionth ad telling me how to be better, thinner, prettier, whatever, the 5000th clickbait post, I thought, “What the actual hell am I doing?”

So today I got outside. Not because I wanted to. But because I knew I had to. I needed the Vitamin D and the manual work of laying mulch and the amusement of my dog barking her brains out as I worked just outside the gate that keeps her safely sequestered in the backyard, “I wanna help, Mama!” I swear she howled.

And I thought of my grandmother. Racille liked to dig in the dirt, too, and be outside. She loved to make things people liked to eat, too, and yesterday I invented a barbecue turkey meatloaf (I cannot stand regular meatloaf) recipe that honestly was delicious and I think she would have been proud of. These two things: being outside on a lovely day and cooking good food for people I love–they can put me back in perspective pronto.

And apparently so can a lone squirrel raising a holy ruckus in my backyard.

I’m not even going to begin suggest I know what would be best for your soul. I resent it when people tell me how I need to worship or reflect or pray or restore myself, so I won’t do that for you. But I will say this: I suspect that when redemption wins, it will not be through the cacophony of advertising or social media or 24 hour news cycles or the damn rat race we all find ourselves caught up in. And it won’t be in the midst of stressful or anxious-driven moments when we can’t see past our current situation or fear or busy-ness or heartache.

I think it will be in the midst of something very human and simple and real–like watching a squirrel run across the tippy-tops of your backyard tree and realizing that there’s so much life out there. So much goodness and joy. Even as we struggle to work through the brutal heaviness our days, weeks, even years can bring.

Because redemption means knowing we’re whole. Loved. Holy and sacred by the very breath we take and worth caring for, worth walking beside, worth having been given life in the first place.

I love more than a few folks carrying more than a few heavy things these days. And I know you do, too. Because such is life. And so for all of us I pray the redemptive grace of knowing that we are not alone. And that in the stillness of even a tiny moment, it is possible to remember what matters most, possible to breathe again, possible to see that Goodness is still at work and Love will, eventually and always, win.

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