Original Post Date: April 25, 2019
She sat down next to me on the steps outside of McDonald’s and drank her iced tea. I didn’t invite her to sit there, but she lumbered over and plunked herself down. She was obese. She smelled. It was painful to try to talk to her because it took forever for her to find her words. I was 16 years old, and I had no patience for her.
Her name was Linda and I hated it when she stood in my line as a cashier at McDonald’s. The customers behind her would grow more impatient than me as she stuttered and stopped, “Umm… I wa… I want… Um….” She would stare up at the menu for awhile and then look at me for help.
“Tea? Do you want a tea today, Linda?” I would prompt. She only ever ordered tea, but we had to go through this routine each time.
“No. I wa… I…” A blank look would come over her face. She would move her mouth as if she was tasting something that wasn’t there. “I… okay. Tea.”
So there I was, stuck next to Linda. I began to plan my polite escape, but instead Linda spoke and I was trapped. “I miss my husband,” she said.
I was shocked. Who would marry Linda? I only knew that she spent most of the time walking up and down the street and lived in a special home for people who couldn’t take care of themselves. “You’re married?!” I asked, confused.
I spent the rest of my work break listening to Linda tell me her story. Tears rolled down her face as she spoke of a life before her car accident. She was married. She had children. She struggled to remember their names and how old they were. She casually mentioned how she had been raped several times because she wandered the streets and didn’t understand enough to protect herself.
She was now mentally disabled and left on her own. Her family had deserted her, no longer wanting this “new person” in their lives. As she spoke I recalled seeing a man with her a few times, so I concluded that this was her husband. When he sat across from her in McDonald’s, he spent his time looking at his watch and staring out the window.
As she finished her story, my heart was breaking. In a panic, I thought, “How would I feel if something like this happened to me? What if this happened to me and people didn’t know that I was really somebody capable and worthwhile?” I tried to comfort myself. “It would never happen to me,” I reasoned. As a 16-year-old, bad things can never happen to you — or so you imagine.
There was silence for a moment and then she said, “But I have Jesus. I have Jesus. Some day I’ll be different.” As a church kid (not saved at the time), I wondered if she knew what she was saying. I asked her a follow-up question, but she didn’t understand. “I have Jesus,” she replied. “Jesus loves me.”
It was one of those moments that is burned in my mind forever. She had something I didn’t understand. Here I was feeling so superior to her in my intellect, in my looks, in my youth, and “stupid, annoying Linda” was suddenly a real person who had lost everything and yet had it all. She was worthwhile.
I am quite sure I will see Linda in heaven, and I can’t wait to talk to her. Despite all that she had lost, her soul was redeemed. Despite losing everything in her past, and being a throwaway person in our society, God used her to plant a seed in my heart. He used her terrible tragedy to shake up a stubborn, 16-year-old rebel who could not get Linda’s story out of her head. As Linda was talking, God used her broken speech and simple vocabulary to reach into my hardened heart and make it soft again. Most importantly, Linda was looking forward to her new body and a redeemed life in eternity.
In the following teaching time from September 2014, I had the privilege of explaining how God works as a redeemer in our lives — not only as one who redeems us in salvation, but also as one who redeems every moment of our lives. He can turn the bad to good. He can take the worthless and make it worthwhile.
Outline of Audio
What does it mean to redeem?
- To compensate for the faults of something and make it worthwhile again
- To make an exchange; to trade for something of worth
Four Things That God Redeems:
- He Redeems Our Souls
- Rescues us from physical and spiritual death (Rom. 6:23, Gal. 2:20, 1 Tim. 2:3-6 , 1 Pet. 1:18-19, Matt. 20:28, Acts 20:28).
- Redeems His chosen people, Israelites and all believers (2 Sam. 7:22-24, Rev. 5:9-10)
- He Redeems Our Past
- Makes our worthless past (our acts) valuable (Gen. 50:20, Rom. 5:20-21. Rom. 6:1-2, 1 Cor. 15:9-10)
- Makes trials (acts against us) valuable (2 Cor. 1:3-7, Rom. 8:22-28)
- Gives us scripture to show us the past and how He has been in the process of redeeming since the fall into sin
- He Redeems the Present
- Redeems every second of the day. He is redeeming everything happening in the present, including every evil and worthless thought (Acts 17:25, Gal. 1:4)
- Makes life worth living, no matter what the circumstances (Rom. 8:18, Phil. 4:11-13)
- He Redeems the Future
- Prepares good works for us (Eph. 2:10, Tit. 2:14, 1 Cor. 6:20, 1 Cor. 7:23)
- Gives us an inheritance (Matt. 25:34, John 14:1-6, Phil. 3:20-21 Rev. 21:3-4)
Perhaps you’re like Linda and a trauma in your life has made you “less than.” Perhaps you live with regrets and the consequences of past choices that cannot be undone. Or maybe you just know that every moment of your life you are failing to live up to God’s standards. All is not lost. Jesus is the Redeemer of it all.
God is good and sovereign, and if we are His, He has a plan for our lives. He not only redeems our souls, but He redeems every minute of our lives and every experience we have. He redeems every breath, every moment, and every act. He makes life worth living.
We spend our lives trying to make things work — fixing our bodies, fixing our possessions — and while they’re breaking down and becoming worthless, we can only try to slow down that process. God is the only one who can work in the opposite direction, creating worth.
Who is like Him? He’s the ultimate redeemer, eternal and perfect, and we can rest in knowing that He’s making it all worthwhile.