Everyday Redemption

January 21, 2014 | 7 comments
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IMG_0776Strutting down the driveway, whistling with a snow shovel over my shoulder I had a moment where I was struck by the absurdity of the scene. I smiled. Then I wondered at it and how it came to be.

Late morning, and gloriously the DC area shuts down at the mention of snow. So I’m still in my pajamas, hanging the picture frames I’ve been meaning to get at for some time.

“James, quick, there’s a car stuck out there. Get your shovel and go help.”

“Oh. Sure.”

That was it in terms of words and thought. But even if the proximate cause, it didn’t really explain much. Why hadn’t we thought or discussed it some more? Why no hesitation? Why was I whistling like a Disney dwarf?

Growing up in northern Wyoming surely has a lot to do with it. Boy did I have a lot of opportunities to shovel snow and freeze my hands pushing on car bumpers. But I remember a lot more talk and thought going on then – most of it dark and grumbling. I remember scowling when my Dad would wake me early to go shovel neighbors’ driveways, or when my teacher’s quorum adviser would call late Sat night asking me to be to the church an hour early, and then hand us shovels right after sacrament meeting. Our cul-de-sac was never plowed, which meant I often enjoyed cursing the dissonant sensation of sweating and freezing at the same time, plowing tire tracks for my neighbors by hand.

Reality is, I had an awful lot of the natural man in me. Saying that I was less than fond of service projects is putting it mildly. Becoming like a child is certainly not a matter of becoming like a teenager – at least not one like I was.

I can’t remember when the switch flipped, but I’m confident it wasn’t because I switched it. The disconnect between my scowling youth and today’s whistling was, I believe, bridged by community. Or communities. Specifically, my ward communities.

Today’s snowstorm mirrored to me one of the myriad ways in which I have been unreflectively, transparently, and wholly transformed by a multitude of Saviors on Mt. Zion who work collectively as part of an institution audaciously called the Kingdom of God on Earth.

Experiencing it is grace, whether or not I see it. Today, I’m grateful I saw it.

7 Responses to Everyday Redemption

  1. Nathaniel Givens on January 21, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    This was beautiful. Thanks.

  2. Steve Martin on January 21, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    I STILL grumble to myself when I take the old lady (who can be a real pain) who lives behind the church, to the doctor. Or when my stroke partially paralyzed friend calls me to take him shopping after I have had a hard day at work.

    Sure there might be times when I give no thought at all (that I am earning something in God’s eyes) to what I am doing, but do it gladly…but those are few and far between. I guess that I am a full blown sinner who wants to put his agenda first and foremost, almost all of the time.

    Thanks be to God that Christ came for the ungodly. People like me. And probably like you too…if you’re ever anything like me.

  3. Cameron N on January 22, 2014 at 1:55 am

    Fantastic last two articles James and Nathaniel. Perfect word choice.

  4. Nancy on January 22, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    You know we’re told in Moroni that we should pray for charity which is a gift that is bestowed by God on all who are true followers of Jesus Christ. So it’s actually something given to us as we seek it out implying that we may not generally just have it on our own. God know that so we shouldn’t beat ourselves up too much when we’re lacking in it. We just need to keep working at trying to get it.

  5. James Olsen on January 22, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    Thank you all for your thoughts.

    Nancy, I agree with you. In addition to praying and working, part of what I’m saying here is that it’s also a matter of finding or remaining rooted in an uplifting, redemptive community. Virtue is both an individual and a social phenomenon, and we all need celestial society. The Church has been that for me, and I’m grateful.

  6. Marc Bohn on January 23, 2014 at 12:52 am

    Beautifully put James… and perfectly descriptive of my experience as well.

  7. YAH on January 28, 2014 at 1:27 am

    Being a convert, coming from a country where Christ-like attributes were not on the list of being good, I experienced what you meant. The doctrine of Christ gave me knowledge and the people, the ward community, with its good AND bad (by saying bad I referred to a few experiences that people have dealt me quite a few deathly blows in it’s true sense) have made me more Christlike.

    Love your post!

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