This is the 250th post since our house burned 28 June 2012 at 4:24 pm. It is 266 days; 38 weeks or 9 months depending on the time unit you prefer. I am not sure which I prefer. 38 weeks seems the shortest unless you are counting those 38 weeks in terms of the birth of a baby. Then it seems long.
Two hundred sixty six days seems about right. It is a lot but I can still count that high without getting confused in the counting. Somewhere after 287 numbers start to pile up and loose their distinctiveness passing from individually identified numbers like 1, 5, 9 or 243 compared to nearly 300. I understand what 243 is, it is a unique, identifiable point on a number line. Nearly 300 is an amorphous region that hovers over 300 without giving us a clue as to whether it is.
After an identifiable 1, 2, 3, ….59, 60, 61…263, 264, 265, 266, we are headed into another amorphous point on the number line: Tomorrow. I can say that tomorrow is point 267 on the number line but I have no idea what that means yet. I have to meet number 267 to understand 267. At the end of the day tomorrow I will have meet 267 but it remains to be seen if I will understand it.
We have had many days since the fire that we know its number, its day of the week, of the month, of the year but we do not understand the day at all. June 28, the day of the fire, is like that. That day, each moment of it, is carved into sharp relief in my memory. I remember what I did in the morning, what I did in the hours before the fire, what we did as we were evacuating, what we did during the evacuation and what we did after arriving at a safe haven in the Marriott hotel and what we ate for dinner and when we went to bed and when we went to sleep. Each point is specific. It is strong, it is immutable. Each moment on the time line of day 1 on the number line has a definition, it has a story. Each moment is as ambiguous as the coming day 267. I understand yesterday. I understand day 179. That was 24 December 2012. It was my 36th wedding anniversary and it was Christmas Eve. I wrote about it in the story A Place to Wax and Grow Strong in Wisdom. I understood my marriage, the Baby Jesus and Mary and Joseph and our fire and our family more clearly than I ever had. I understood the day. I understood it was a day wrapped in mercy and mystery. I understood again that each day has a story to tell and each day, no matter how horrible it is, carries the seeds of redemption in it.
As I reflect on today’s story of knowing each number on the number line, I am reminded that redemption is one of my favorite concepts. It always has been but following the fire it has been a very important theological concept in my understanding the old question of “Why do bad things happen to good people.” Pragmatically it is one of the ways I make sense of fire recovery. Each day can be redeemed and each day, known, is redeemed.
I find my understanding of redemption and others often diverge. There are layers of meaning of the words redeem and redemption. I do not say that each day is good. Day 1 on our fire number-line is not a good day. A bad thing happened that day. Other people’s days on their number line of their life carries things that are very sad and painful or even evil. There is nothing right about being a victim of anther’s crime, of being in war, of being abused by another, or being a victim of genocide or pogrom because of who you are. None of those days are good. There is a chance of goodness in that day, a goodness that can redeem the day for the person who struggling and suffering to live through it. Redemption of a day is not the same as making it go away or making it like it was fine. Redemption is to be set free, to be rescued or ransomed from a time or place that existed in that person’s life. The redemption can come in many ways, large or small, but always touches the heart.
So, when I say that the day can be redeemed I mean that something in the mercy and mystery is an element that carries healing. Those days I understand about our fire. I understand redemption. I understand redemption of the fire moment to moment, day to day, and on my life’s number line. Here is another point of confusion. When I say that something is redeemed I don’t mean it came from the dark to the light and everything was fine. I mean that horror of it is replaced by understanding of the details of the day and by seeing the love present in the day. Love does make the day OK but it makes the day understandable. It is not the day “teaching you a lesson” or being in a bad situation because I found myself in the situation to be taught a lesson. No one intentionally puts us in the horror that day number 1 holds. Redemption is free and is an act of love not something that can be purchased with a credit card. It does not make bad things fine. It anoints the bad in the fragrant oil of love.
So as I reflect on post #250, I think of all of my days and moments in the past 266 days that have been redeemed by others true caring and love extended to us. Perhaps the thing I most do not understand about the day be it day 1, day 245 or even tomorrow, day 267, is how love can be so powerful that it can redeem so much and how that redemption is a free gift.
I have learned I can face each day of the amorphous ones on my life’s number line knowing that within each day are the seeds of redemption. In that knowledge, I am free.