Redemption is the follow-on act to forgiveness in the transformative process that moves us from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil to the Tree of Life. It is the action that makes our human experience useful for a life of spiritual growth and compassionate service.
Recall, again, that we are journeying from attachment and revulsion, to detachment from the controlling power of both our desires and also the burdens and pains of our human experience. Detachment, in this context, is not disengagement from life. Rather, it is a choice about control. We detach by deciding that neither our desires nor our fears will have authority over who and how we are. That authority comes from a different place and will be the topic for another week.
For the person engaged fully in this journey between the trees, forgiveness – relinquishing control – and redemption – accepting back as useful – are the paired constant tasks of life. They are no more nor less than breathing in and breathing out.
Remember our experiential list from last week:
- Desires that we chase, never to complete satisfaction
- Fears and discomforts that we avoid
- Wrongs that we inflict on others
- Wounds and injustices that we receive
Forgiveness is the act of letting go of these things, of stepping off the merry-go-round, of no longer chasing our tail in our mad dash around the trunk of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Redemption is when all these things we have chased or run from, and now release, come back to us as useful tools for life. Notice that I say tools. We do not have to use them. We do not have to go back to them. Some we may choose never to touch again in any way. Some traumas are too deep and the healing too long and painful to be picked up and put into active use as personal tools for the healing of others. And I would never imply some kind of cosmic purpose dictated by the learnings from a horrible accident, for instance.
But at the very least, redemption is an action of sufficient personal healing to make it possible to move forward in life. Perhaps, in fact, it is that very act of moving forward once we have been able to forgive and relinquish:
- When I have let go of my attachment to a desire, I may choose to experience that pleasure when it is available if I know that it will not harm me or another, no longer controlled by my attachment to it. Or I may know that the possibility of reattachment holds too much risk for me. In that case, I might choose to live my life without touching that experience again, while neither despising nor praising it. I have experienced forgiveness. I move on through redemption.
- When we have let go of a fear we have long carried, we may simply move forward without it. Or perhaps we will be comfortable enough with what we have learned that we can, in turn, help others on the path to name and to release similar fears. Redemption is the move forward. Redemption is also the new tool we have in service of others if we choose to use it.
- When we have been able to give and to receive forgiveness for things we have done or for wounds we have received, redemption makes it possible for us to remind ourselves, with humility, when we might become critical or judgmental of others. Or it may help us to empathize, to hear and to participate in the healing of another who has experienced a wound similar to our own. In either case, it clears the path for us to move more freely and openly toward the Tree of Life, where all people experience and share healing.
Redemption touches and heals memory. It does not take memory away, but it can make memory our teacher. Redemption is our constant companion, if we are listening for it on the path, conversing with us, drawing wisdom and understanding from our experience. If we allow it, redemption opens the ear of our hearts so that we can hear others with compassion. It is the gift we become for each other on our journey to the Tree of Life.
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