When I was a young boy, I was always on the lookout for a way to make a little spending money of my own. Recycling newspapers or aluminum cans was a common fallback, but the income as compared to the effort was rarely worth it. But every now and again I should stumble across the Holy Grail of recycling: The redeemable bottle.
For those of you without a little gray under their hats, or who aren’t living in environmentally-conscious locations, it used to be common practice when you bought soda in bottles that you paid a deposit for the bottle of 5 or 10 cents. You would save your “empties” and bring them along with you when you went back to the store. There you could redeem the bottles and get your deposit back. The soda bottlers would pick up the empties, clean and sterilize them, and then refill them to start the cycle over again. The bottles weren’t as much recycled as they were restored.
Stumbling across a couple of those bad boys on the beach or an empty lot was a financial coup for a seven year old. The words “redemption value,” appearing as a part of the glass itself, meant pure profit, baby.
As I have been thinking about the meaning of the word “redemption” as used in Christianity, particularly Mormonism, those cash deposit bottles keep coming to mind. When it comes to our relationship with Christ, each of us has a lot in common with those empties.
Many of us feel cast out, buried under the accumulated dirt and weeds of living out of harmony with the Lord’s plan of happiness. But no matter in what circumstance we are found, or how soiled we appear, we still have value on the eyes of God. He still can make something of us.
When we come back to the presence or influence of the Lord, often as a result of being rescued by someone who knew our inherent value and searched us out with diligence, we can be restored to our highest value. Through repentance, we are washed clean and sterilized from the infection of sin the power of the Holy Ghost.
Once we are made pure, the Lord does not leave us empty. He fills us again, with gifts of the Spirit that we can then take out into the world as a source of refreshment, sweetness, and the the cooling peace of Living Waters.
He then labels us with His name and seals us up against the impurities of the world. We are made a whole product once more.
What is truly remarkable is that this isn’t a one-time offer. The Lord doesn’t give us one chance at redemption, then grind us up for recycling when we go astray again. It is our nature that when we go into the world, we inevitably find ourselves eventually emptied, whether through new mistakes, repeated old mistakes, or even just drained by the exhaustion of doing good. Whatever the case, “redemption value” is irrevocably etched on our foreheads, the Lord takes us back in and through the power of His atonement, cleans us, fills us up, and seals as His once again.