For you have redeemed me, you have called me by name

So its very late at night and really I should be sleeping, but my head and my heart feels so full of the last few days that I know I needed to start writing to process it all.

On Saturday a precious friend married her lovely man. It was a remarkable day in so many ways, mainly because they are a pretty remarkable couple – it was full of fun, laughter, love, lots of music and a shed load of rain. Think fields and tepees, rain, rain and more rain, and a whole lot of mud. I spent a large percentage of the day wet and cold which is not something I normally love but it didn’t matter. My heart was left overwhelmed and not just because it was a great day but because of the stories that led to that day and what that day was a culmination of.

I have known my friend for over 15 years, she is part of my “framily”, of the precious community of people who are my people. She is quirky, and all things lovely, my child like all children think she is amazing for many reasons including her creative abilities to think of the most random games which she tirelessly and patiently plays with them over and over again. Her lovely man I have known since he came into her life about 3 years ago and he has blessed our “framily” so immensely in that time.

It would have been easy to sit there on Saturday and be swept along in all the love and warm feelings of the day, to think it was all about the happiness and the joy, and that was totally what Saturday was all about, but it would have been easy to forget the paths that got these two precious people to that day, paths which have been tough and painful at so many times over the years. Theirs are stories which include loss, tragedy, waiting a flipping long time, loneliness, and dark days.

There are so many things that I could list about why Saturday was an amazing day, but the one think that stands out above it all, the thing that has blown me away and left me unable to sleep (not that it takes a lot) is what a story of redemption it is.

Now they aren’t my stories to tell in detail but I sat in that church on Saturday remembering so many tough times for my friend, so many times of waiting and wondering where God was in it all and here we were celebrating God bringing two people together, two people who could not be more suited to each other, two people who have had to overcome so much and face their fears and take big leaps of faith. They acknowledged on Saturday, all the way through the day, that it was a day of redemption, of God’s turning around of situations, of God’s second chances, of God making tough places beautiful again.

I loved looking around on Saturday and seeing such an eclectic and crazy bunch of people, people this couple have walked life with, people who stood at what was a pretty epic and amazing open mike of words, singing and laughter, telling the stories of these two from their perspective, of people testifying of the redemption they could see in their lives.

It is such a powerful story and one I am so grateful to have been able to watch.

“Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43 vs.1).

I have said this before and I have no doubt I will say it again but I love the way that when God is trying to tell me something, challenge me or remind me of something he shows me in so many different ways. So last week I got the privilege of playing a tiny part in another amazing story of redemption, another story of loss and tragedy, of unresolved pain and grief, which after 30 years God is healing up, where I can see freedom, forgiveness and God’s power shining through in amazing ways. Again it blew me away because actually there is nothing more amazing than seeing God show up and turn situations around – it is an inexplicable feeling which words can’t do justice to.

Then in the last few weeks I have had to put together a piece of writing for a potential project, something which has bought all my fears and self doubt to the surface. It is a project which may come to nothing and if it doesn’t then that is fine because actually there has been real power in the preparation, in the process – as I have written the words of the last ten years of my life I can see God at work all the way through the story, I have seen come off the pages the truth and reality that although it has been so incredibly painful at times, and although it feels like God has taken so long to put me back together, with me feeling so forgotten at times, he has been there all along bringing me back to life, slowly (well at least in my timescales) but surely, small steps but in a deep way, so many lessons learnt, so many riches in the midst of it. Mine is a story of redemption, of God turning around, of rebuilding, of restoring. I asked one of my best friends to read what I had written because I needed some reassurance, a friend who has walked more closely with me than any other, and part of her response was to remind me of bits of the stories I had forgotten, to point me more clearly to the ways God has bought healing and freedom. Again I was left a little overwhelmed at his goodness.

I have been reminded again that nothing is impossible, that however hard the situation it doesn’t have to be the end of the story, that with God there is always a way out. ALWAYS. There are always second chances. ALWAYS. That beauty can always come from the pain. ALWAYS. It never normally looks like we think it should do, it is not normally in our timescales and generally it will not be all easy roads to get there but there is always hope. ALWAYS.

As I looked around on Saturday and as I have reflected since it wasn’t just the story of redemption that blew me away but it was the lessons learnt in the midst of the wait, it was the compassion birthed as a result of the pain, it was the relationships forged and deepened because of the tough times. I looked at my friends coming together, knowing that because of what bought them to that point it will shape who and what they do going forward, there is such love and compassion because of what has happened in their lives and I know that they will not allow that pain to be wasted because I know that they will invest into many people’s lives things they can only invest because of what they have had to walk.

My heart also came away full because I get to do life with people who are real and vulnerable – we have walked the hard roads together, we have held each other up, we have listened to each other, we have cried together, we know each other’s stories, we are inextricably part of each other’s stories and I love that so much. And because of that we get to celebrate the good stuff together and those celebrations are so much the sweeter because of it.

That wedding on Saturday is not the end of the story – these stories have lots more pages to be lived and redemption will be an on-going process for them and for us all, but there is nothing I would rather put my hope in that redemption and the one who gives it to us with such grace and love because hand on heart there is nothing that makes me feel more alive.

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