by Mary Sorrentino
Can you believe it’s the end of the summer already? The kids have exchanged their water “noodles” and sunscreen for school books, and Mom’s exchanged her more relaxed “summer” stance for a somewhat stricter school year discipline. Not the greatest of exchanges in the kids’ eyes to be sure! Speaking of exchanges ~ trading one thing for another ~ my husband found something buried in a drawer recently that reminded me of a much more significant exchange.
So, here is a little memory test. What are these? Most of you are probably much too young to remember what they are or what they were used for.
They are S&H Green Stamps. I know I’m dating myself, but when I was a little girl there were piles of these books stashed all over my house, just waiting for that exciting day when we could go exchange them for something wonderful. Mom purposely shopped at stores that gave S&H Green Stamps with every purchase. The more she spent the more stamps she’d receive. And feeding a family of 9, grocery shopping at the National would produce long sheets of stamps each week to stick in the “Saver Books” until Mom had saved enough to redeem them for something she wanted from the S&H Green Stamp Redemption Center. Of course those days were long before the internet or “Marriott Points,” but the concept is the same. You got stamps (points) for your purchases, and then could exchange the stamps (points) for something of real value.
As I held my single sheet of “antique” S&H Green Stamps I thought about the S&H Redemption Center. What an exciting place. It was like a huge department store that didn’t take money. Aisle upon wonderful aisle, stocked full of valuable things ~ everything from watches and jewelry to TV trays (remember those?) to household goods, furniture and more. Mom could exchange her worthless, stamp filled books for something she really wanted, something of much greater value than those silly stickers.
What a beautiful picture of what God has done for us ~ redemption ~ the great exchange. We give God our worthless, sin-filled lives and He exchanges them for forgiveness, freedom and purpose. And if that were not enough, He also redeems those parts of our lives that we’d just as soon get rid of ~ the pain, the trials, the mistakes, the anger, the broken things ~ all exchanged for something of far greater value. Yesterday at church I saw a beautiful example of this kind of redemption as I watched a woman raising her twisted, arthritic hands to the Lord in worship. What a picture! The distorted, pain filled hands that are not even able to hold a pencil, now lifted high to become the instrument of honor and praise to the God of the Universe. That’s redemption. When I give it to Him, God takes my pain and transforms it into something useful, a testimony to His faithfulness. When I am angry at my spouse, negative thoughts and feelings consuming my mind and heart, I give them to God and He redeems them. He exchanges them for something with purpose, meaning, and value; taking all that negative emotion and energy and transforming it into motivation for change, motivation to do good, motivation to help others.
At the S&H Green Stamp Redemption Center, you could redeem your fist full of sticker books for something of far greater value. That’s a perfect picture of the real meaning of redemption. I can just picture God in His great Redemption Center in Heaven, with aisle after aisle, warehouse after warehouse filled with the good, valuable and awesome gifts He wants to give us in exchange for all the worthless things we’re grasping so tightly in our hands. Peace, purpose, freedom, friendship, hope, joy, and more await us on His shelves.
I’ll take that trade. I’ll exchange my “ashes for beauty.” (Isaiah 61:3) I’ll trade my ugly anger and pain, my illnesses and emotional scars, and even my continued sin for what God wants to give me. I’ll say, “God, take it. Redeem it. Exchange my worst for Your best!” What about you? Will you take the hard things, the bad things, and the painful things in your life and bring them to God’s great redemption center? Go there on purpose. Take all the worthless things you’re grasping in your hands and exchange them for God’s best. Redemption from our sin for eternity and from what binds us each and every day is what He offers. What a gift. What a great exchange!