Rolling over Redemption (a minimally refined SFD)*


When the kids are bored sometimes I tell them to go hunt ladybugs or to go roll over a rock to see what is there.  I don’t know, it works for me, that rock rolling over thing.

Except now I get more complicated, I want to roll over the rock of what is the difference between irony and sarcasm (yup, I was accused of sarcasm but took major issue with it because it is such a rapier weapon that can do far too much damage, however, irony to me is the source of almost all joy-and should be harmless and good for the diet).

Irony is used to convey, usually, the opposite meaning of the actual things you say, but its purpose is not intended to hurt the other person.
Sarcasm, while still keeping the “characteristic” that you mean the opposite of what you say, unlike irony it is used to hurt the other person.

And when my kids accuse me of blackmailing them because no tv until room is clean… I wondered “What??”  And I did tell them that blackmail involved pictures of naked people and so since there were no pictures of naked people, no blackmail had taken place while trundling them up to clean rooms.

We are just exactly like this:  a pinterest family.

But then I had to really nail down what the difference between bribery, leveraging and blackmail was because it was all a little fuzzy in my head except that one was ok and the other two weren’t really.

These are the kinds of rocks I roll over.

But then, one day the word “redemption” exploded on me, again.  That word for years had been thrown around so much in church, but I only remember seeing it written on coupons being “redeemed” and so it sat in a fog of “what is that all about?” (along with Pontius Pilate sounding like he might have been drunk while flying a plane which crashed Jesus and all the other imaginative flights of fancy that happened in youngitude with regards to church vocabulary that went unexplained) for years until pottery and tragedy.

It happened when someone picked up an unfired mug that I made and the whole handle came off.  They felt bad and tried to exculpate themselves. I said “It’s ok, it was a mug, now it will be a cup,”

And in seeing someone else pass through a similar situation, I told this story, only added that with further atrophy, it might become a small dish to hold earrings.  We laughed, but it wasn’t really a joke.  Because redeeming broken or messed up things in pottery is huge.  It connects to something bigger in life where mistakes turn into learning and brokenness becomes a useful tool.


Ideas about redemption pop up in things like this book “Joseph Had a Little Overcoat” by Simms Taback, a simple children’s story that tells the tale of an overcoat that wore out and turned into a jacket, then a vest, then patches for other things and parts of a quilt, and a handkerchief and finally a strong button.


The transformation of a worn out overcoat being used and loved down to a button speaks redemption to me.  And redemption is a warm fire by which to remove the chill of things like failure, mistakes and brokenness, so I like to sit next to it when I can.

But redemption has its limits.  It is not like duct tape.  Some things are only just tragic, sad and painful.  Like Sandy Hook.  Or suicide, or killing… perhaps anytime one spills another’s blood, I am not sure that there is any possible redemption… only grief, loss and sadness.  To try to redeem these things is cruel because it denies the ones left behind the dignity of grief.

I suppose for that reason the book “The Shack”makes me angry.  Even though I think the author is amazing.  And I can abide many other parts of it.  But I know I see it through a certain filter I can’t get away from.

The rock I rolled over showed me that there were these limits on even the warm fire of redemption…  but then what could be redeemed and what could not?   I think maybe the destruction of an alcoholic parent of spouse cannot be redeemed.  But the mistake of a student choosing a really awful topic for a paper can be redeemed (because they learned on their own and hopefully will be more careful).  Skateboarding on ice without gear?  When children are born with brains that work differently? (definitely redeemable)  What about painful shoes?  (no. nonono)  When ice cream falls onto the sidewalk (yes, redeemable if mom is there and a bit fast and not germaphobe)?

What about redemption in relationships between people, with important stakeholders… ?

This is my SFD (this is Anne LaMott lingo with a specific negative descriptor for a First Draft).

If you wish you can come with a flashlight to point out what I missed, but I will leave that up to you.  I like to listen.  Either I will learn or move on, regardless it won’t be a waste.

this is dedicated to Oregon author Brian Doyle.  I’d love to sit and hear what he had to say about this topic and what he has learned.  But for now I just hope he overcomes, regardless of the odds.


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