Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

A Portrait of Redemption

We recently had family pictures made. As I look at the smiling faces, I am struck by how different they look from what I always expected. Yet, those smiling faces are an amazing picture of God’s redemption.

Our family pictures are breath-taking (as far as I’m concerned). But, as I look at the faces, I am truly amazed. Thirty years ago…even 15 years ago…I would have never envisioned this picture. I was expecting family pictures with these three kids and their dad, not a friend from high school. And even two years ago after we started dating. I anticipated family pictures with seven.

So far from what we envisioned.

Yet, as I reflect on these pictures, I see redemption so clearly in so many ways. I see God’s hand carrying us through such painful days to bring healing. I see the God who loves us so well reflected in every smile, in every face.

It’s not always been that way. Sometimes we miss God’s redemption. We are so focused on the heartache and the pain and the loss that we miss His goodness and His grace that is all around us. Sometimes we are so caught up in what we perceive should have been that we miss what is.

How do I see God’s redemption when there are so many missing pieces in these pictures?

The God who places the fatherless in a family. Yesterday was Father’s Day. Those five smiling faces? I am the only one who has an earthly father still here on this earth. Roy lost his dad last year. The kids lost their dad three years ago. All four of them are fatherless in our human eyes.

Roy and I started dating literally six weeks after my kids lost their dad. At the time, we didn’t know Roy’s dad was sick and that we would lose him within a very short time.

But God did. He knew the pain all four of them were suffering. He knew my kids were in desperate need of a man to love them, to step up in their father’s absence. He knew Roy would need others to lean on , to carry him through the pain of losing his dad, his hero. He put us all together into one family. He took the fatherless and gave them the love of a family.

God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. Psalm 68:6

The God who fulfills our hearts’ desires. Roy has always wanted to be a dad. Few other things has he wanted the way he wants to be able to pour into kids and have them love him back.

My kids have always wanted a dad who would love them unconditionally, a dad who was available and supportive.

I have always wanted a husband who would cherish me and love me the way God wants me to be loved.

Roy didn’t know that his biological children would be absent from his life as they are in this period. My kids didn’t know they would lose the hope of a relationship with their earthly father. I didn’t know I would suffer the most painful betrayal at the hands of my husband.

But God knew. And He planned in advance to fulfill our hearts’ desires. He gave Roy kids to love him. He gave the kids a dad to love him. He gave me a husband who cherishes me. It’s not the picture we expected three, five, or ten years ago, but it is a beautiful picture of God giving us our hearts’ desires.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

The God who pursues us relentlessly. Oh, how Roy pursued me!! For years, he sought my affections. Of course, he had to let God do a work in his heart and teach him to turn to God rather than to rum and Coke. Even when he began to change, it took time for God to work on my heart and show me a different side of this man I had known as Bubba back in high school. He fought for my affections. He loved me when I didn’t love him.

And it wasn’t just me. He pursued my kids, doing for them in so many ways even though he hardly knew them. He was a light, a kind gentleman. He never gave up. He is such a portrait of the God who pursues us and never gives up on us.

Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? Luke 15:4

The God who makes all things new. My son has begun to share some things with me he has written. It is so heart-breaking, so vulnerable, so real. It tells the story of the pain we lived in, even before I realized how dysfunctional it was. It tells of the sense of security and normalcy that came after our divorce. It tells of the old, the painful.

But these pictures are clearly portraits of something new. They are portraits of the God who brings beauty from our ashes (Isaiah 61:3). They are pictures of the God who take all of our hurt and pain and transforms it into something completely different, completely new.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19

The God who has such a great sense of humor. I am firmly convinced that God has a sense of humor! I remember the day my parents said something about Roy chasing me since high school (not totally accurate). My response was, “He can just keep chasing because he’s not going to catch me.”

How many times did I say I would never marry anyone from our high school? How many times did I say I would never date Roy Martin? How many times did Cassie pray for a man with a hairy chest. Oh how God answered that prayer!! (He actually won the very hairy chest contest on our recent cruise…)

I’m glad God has a sense of humor. If there’s one thing my kids inherited from their dad it is definitely a sense of humor! And I’m so glad they have that trait. There is nothing better than the gift of laughter. I know it’s a gift from God, and I am absolutely certain He delights in making us eat our words.

The God who knows exactly what we need, exactly when we need it. I prayed for years that God would bring a husband. I often began to doubt whether He even heard my prayers. In the end, His timing was impeccable! He brought Roy into our lives at the exact time my kids lost their dad. He brought my kids into Roy’s life in time to establish a relationship with them before he lost his kids. He brought Roy to me when I was ready to focus solely on my kids.

I often get so anxious, wondering how and when God will come through. Truth is, He is never early and never late. His timing is perfect. No matter what we need, He knows way better than we do. He sees the big picture and knows what we need far better than we do. It’s our job to simply trust.

Redemption doesn’t always look the way we expected. I would actually dare to say it rarely looks the way we expected. If we will only take a deep breath, allow God to adjust our perspective, we just might see His redemption clearly—even in the broken mess we have here on this earth.