I visited my brother’s grave last week. I took the dogs with me after a long walk, and there was something very comforting about bringing this current life of mine to where his memory has always been.
This cemetery has been a part of my life since I was small. The stinging pungency of dead flower water being rinsed out of moss-stained jam jars. The wind in the trees or the heat of the sun depending on the season. The names on the graves – young men lost at Jutland, “Little Chel” who will always be remembered. The yew trees and the beech hedge. The stumbley path where you could crick your ankle if you weren’t careful. My mother’s seventies summer dresses. My father’s gloves and feet. The quiet.
David was buried in 1970 in a far corner reserved for children. He was the only one there.
Over the decades it slowly filled, and I looked with eager interest to see who else had gone. Perhaps weirdly as a child I found it reassuring – that we were not the only family to have experienced devastation. It was simply a part of life. No one got away free.
As I stood there this time in the misty rain and autumn leaves, I thought again about God’s protection. How my sister and I have discussed in later years that we just don’t know what God protected David from by taking him so young. All we see from this side is the loss, but God is a God of mercy and wisdom. Unfailingly.
I think about all the loss I feel in my life right now. It’s extraordinarily hard to lose your home, your community, your adult independence, your life as you knew it. But standing there with David’s stone and the dogs, I wondered too what God might have saved me from.
It’s hard here, but might it have been even harder if I’d stayed where I was?
God took out of my hands the decision to move the children and me across the world. He positioned me to move and in that too there was so much mercy. So much parental protection. I could not have made such a complete life change of my own volition, I’m not strong enough. It’s just too massive, too radical to undertake. How could I possibly know? So to be manoeuvred into it was absolutely the kindness of God, no matter how hard I find it from what I can currently see.
One day leaving court in my divorce, I was weeping. As I climbed into my car I said out loud, “Lord, I need a word. Please give me a word. I need your encouragement now.” Before this plea had fully formed on my lips, a word sprang up in my spirit: REDEMPTION. I was so surprised by the immediacy of it that I gasped and stopped crying. God did have a path forward for me! I put my key into the ignition and drove away.
But what does redemption mean in the face of so much loss? It does not mean getting all those lost things back. God restored to Job twice over what he lost, but he never got those children back did he.
I’m not sure it’s possible to know what God’s redemption in my life really looks like. How can I grasp it? I can see some of the things He brings into place as a result of where and who I now am, but I cannot quantify it by what I can see. Because what if much of God’s redeeming power comes into effect through things that now won’t happen, can’t harm us, won’t steal any more from our battered souls? Perhaps it is enough to know that redemption is present, redemption is happening simply because that is the unchanging nature of our redeeming God.
Because the one thing I DO know in all this is that God is a good God. Wholly, utterly, unerringly, unimaginably good. And the fact that I know this and have an almost thirty year track record of witnessing it, means that I know He MUST be redeeming all my loss as I submit my life, my broken heart, my soul to Him. Because He’s promised to.
Whether or not I perceive redemption cannot be the stick by which I measure if it’s there.
Faith has to cover that.