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  • By Barb Shelton

What Can God Redeem?

The word "redeem" is one of my very favorite words ~ ever! It can seem a bit "religious" or vague, but it's actually very practical and exciting! If you don't agree, you just don't realize the full scope of this word, which, in God, actually has the power to transform anything in our lives that's less than desirable!

Anything good in my life has come about as the direct result of God's redeeming work in me.

In my first article in this three-part series, The Blue Chip Stamp Story, I shared what the word "redeem" means in a rubber-meets-the-road way. If you haven't read that yet, I highly recommend you read that before reading this. It'll make this article richer and go deeper.

If we don't understand this word, redeem, we'll miss a lot of good stuff that God has for us. It's like if there's a jar with a million dollars in it buried in your yard, but you don't know it's there. So we're going to do a little digging up and unearthing of some "riches"!

In the next ~ third and last ~ post in this series, I will share my thoughts on how God redeems. But first we need to know what, specifically, is even redeemable! You might be surprised. Let's get some rubber to meet the road here…



The way we relate to people comes out of our heart. If I'm basically selfish and prideful at my core, this will be affect ~ and be evident throughout ~ all of my relationships. And it certainly was for me! I acted nice, did nice things, was funny and generally enjoyable. (At least I thought so!) But when push came to shove ~ as it always does ~ I related and acted out of my pride and selfishness.

So what relationships, specifically, does God want to focus on redeeming?

WITH HIMSELF - for starters. If, like many, you think that you have to be good enough or do enough good stuff to get God to like you, and to get to Heaven, then there's some redeeming of your thinking to be done. Salvation is not based on our works; we don't get to Heaven because we have done enough good things to get there. So no need to relate to God on a "being good enough" basis. Confessing our sins and surrendering our life to God is all it takes to be in a right relationship with God, and to get to Heaven. Not being good enough. But if we truly love Him, there will be evidence of it in our lives. So if this isn't right in your heart and life, start here! (Please leave a comment below or email me if you want help with this!!)

WITH OUR SPOUSE - God redeemed Dave's and my marriage in a way I never dreamed He could or even wanted to! I am now married to a man who is a blast to live with (can't wait till he retires in a few months!), who has a delightful sense of humor, and who takes awesome care of me. But things haven't always been this way...

We started our marriage with a lot of "fleshliness," and went through many difficult, painful years, culminating, seventeen years into it, in separation. Overtly, this was because of an affair Dave had, but internally it was because we both had immature, selfish, unloving ways of relating. So, of course, neither of us was satisfied in our marriage. Dave sought satisfaction outside the "boundaries" of marriage, but I had trampled all over what I'd call "heart boundaries" inside our marriage.

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During that six-month separation ~ which was one of the longest, hardest, and most growth-filled seasons of my life ~ God got a hold of us, each in different ways, turned us around (and upside-down, and inside out!), and redeemed our marriage. He has since helped us both completely heal and bond, and we are living proof that God is in the business of saving marriages and healing broken hearts. (I am skipping volumes here, but "Our Story" CD is available HERE.)

WITH OUR KIDS - For about the first dozen years of raising our three kids, my relationships with each them were good in some ways, not-so-good in others. That core selfishness I mentioned above tainted how I related with everyone, including, if not especially my kids. How often have we heard "We don't get along because we're too much alike"? But most likely we don't get along because of similar sin; not because we're generally too much alike.

When Sharnessa was about 11, I became aware of the Lifestyle of Learning ministry of Marilyn Howshall, who was able to get to the heart like no one I'd ever known.

I began feeling the Lord's conviction regarding the stinky, sinful condition of my heart, and became embarrassingly aware of the often-disrespectful climate in our home and how much I'd been the cause of it.

I would yell at the kids about how disrespectful they were being to each other, in a tone that was anything but respectful or kind!

When the Lord showed me the raw, sad truth about myself, I was grieved and undone over this for weeks. I allowed Him to go into the rancid soil of my heart, down to the roots, where He showed me my sin and led me in repenting, renewing my mind, and changing the damaging way I'd been relating to my kids and Dave.

After a time, He started helping me humbly help them root out this same sin ~ which they had learned well from me and Dave.

This process was so long and arduous that I often felt that it ~ or I ~ would never change. I had fallen for the popular view that disrespect, sarcasm and selfishness are normal and to be expected at home.

This is the norm on TV. Part of the popularity of many shows is that they make people feel that their prideful, disrespectful, unloving ways of relating to each other are normal and okay.

They may be normal for our culture, but they are anything but okay. In reality this is a LIE that the enemy perpetrates, and that he has used to destroy the closeness between many parents and their children.

But, "by (and only by) the mighty power of the Spirit of the Lord at work within me," I did overcome it, and eventually the Lord uprooted this insidious heart condition out of our family and planted sweet new ways of relating. (More on this in a future blog post: "Connecting Hearts ~ Now and Forever.")




One painful memory was of being a wallflower in high school, which I felt most intensely at school dances! I loved to dance, but back then, girls did NOT dance with girls! We had to wait for a guy to ask us to dance.

Well, guess what... I never got asked to dance. ... Ever! ... So I eventually stopped going to dances. (Which was just fine, really; they were not the most socially healthy places for kids to be.) It was just too painful to be rejected again each time a new song started, when just about every girl but me was getting asked to dance.

I didn't even realize this was something needed to be redeemed. But the Lord did. And he knew just how...

Decades later, during worship time at church, I "saw" this "vision" of me and Jesus dancing in a spotlight. It just came to me, and I was "there."

I was mostly aware of HIM, and how enthralled He was with ME, like a father and daughter dance at a wedding. But Jesus was now tenderly dancing with me... and I felt Him say to me:

"Barbara, forgive them," ~ and I immediately knew He meant the boys at the school dances who hadn't asked me to dance ~ "they knew not what they were missing." which He meant in the purest way. Just that I was a treasure!

And thus ~ and that quickly ~ was that painful corner of my heart brought into the light and sweetly redeemed.



In my teens and early 20's, I failed at most of the many occupations I tried. In fact, I was essentially fired from every job I had: waitress, motel maid, bank teller, salad-maker at a retirement home, fast-food worker… You name it, I couldn't do it ~ well enough to stay employed for long.

This was because I lacked two things: speed and accuracy. In anything... Be it typing, counting money at the bank, (9 out of 10 times I did not balance at the end of the day), getting orders right at the restaurants, (including getting food to the tables before it got cold!), making salads, cleaning hotel rooms, making fry sauce... Yep ~ I tried all those, but did not do them quickly or accurately enough, no matter how much practice I got.

For some odd reason, employers valued speed and accuracy above "personality," if you can believe that. They don't merely want their work place enjoyable; they want it efficient, and for the service to be fast!

I was always fired in a nice way because they liked me.

In fact, most of my employers, who had never met each other, all seemed to have the same script: "Barb, we really like you, but…" and then they would explain what wasn't working about my performance ~ always something to do with speed and accuracy ~ and I'd be asked to resign.

This pretty much disintegrated my already-fragile self image. I felt like a failure as a person, and my confidence suffered for years.

But God has since redeemed my inabilities in this area by eventually ~ in His perfect timing ~ helping me develop the giftings He had put in me. He led me to write. And then led me into speaking. And then into creating my own website. And now blogging. But He had to develop ME first; my message; because writing is just sharing from one's life in written form.



MY FEAR OF THE RED PEN - I used to view any editing of my writing as rejection. Through a long process, God brought me to the place of realizing it was the only way I was going to learn and grow.

"FAILAPHOBIA" - This is my own word for "fear of failing." I have dealt with it all my life. I don't know why, but it doesn't really matter. I have always had a hard time learning new things because of the anxiety ~ no doubt about possibly failing or just not being smart enough to learn it ~ that felt like a tight grip around my heart and neck. It was awful.

The Lord has healed it almost completely. I no longer feel that awful breath-constricting tightness when confronted with learning something new. I wonder if maybe He left just a bit of residue from it to keep me realizing my dependence on Him: "My power shows up best in weak people."

FEAR OF PUBLIC SPEAKING - This fear was huuuuuge when I first started speaking ~ like at a microphone, in front of an audience ~ back in 1985. I was set to speak at a homeschool convention, and it was at a big fancy-schmancy hotel in Seattle where one chandelier was larger than my house, and every thought of entering that room freeeeeaked me out!

It got progressively worse as the convention approached; with every thought of standing in front of that huge room (which really did end up being as big as I'd imagined), a horrible churning pang would jolt through my guts like lightning. I did not know how I was physically and emotionally going to survive this!

After getting out of the shower one day and seeing my "eau de natural" face and hair in the foggy mirror, I told the Lord I did not know why He was having me do this; that I was NOT a speaker!!!

I was literally panicking and freaking out. I felt Him say: "Hmmm, I thought that, when you gave your life to Me, I was going to get to be the One to decide what you would become."

"Yes, Lord, HOWEVER! I can't DO this!!! I'm dying every time I think of speaking, and I just can't live like this!!!"

I felt Him say "The problem is that I'm filling you with new wine, but you still have your old wineskin, so the new wine is bursting your old wineskin."

Me: "Well that makes sense. So what do we do about this?!?!?"

Him: "You need to let Me take your old wineskin (which I just see as being the heart and soul of me that "holds" who I am, including my will and my thinking), and give you a new wineskin!!!"

And that happened that very day! I handed over to Him my old wineskin, which He then redeemed by giving me a new wineskin that would hold this new wine He was pouring into ~ and through ~ me.

I never had another horrible jolt regarding speaking ever again!!! Butterflies and excitement, but NO jolts!!! In fact, I actually love speaking now!

FEAR OF ANYTHING COMPUTERISH - When I started writing, I had to learn the computer, but was convinced I couldn't. I struggled hugely!!! Over the years, the Lord sent me three special people who have helped me overcome this fear. My son-in-love Sam, my friend Kelli, and my other son-in-love, CJ. "Jesus with techy skin on," as I like to call them! They have helped me create a website, and now a blog! That fear has now been totally redeemed, and I LOVE what I'm doing!



I believe that our thinking has more to do with how our lives go than do circumstances. So it's important that we let God redeem our thinking about anything that's not in line with the truth. Like, for example, two huge areas of my thinking that needed some serious fixing and adjusting were my thinking about:

  • GOD - This is the single most important aspect of our thinking that needs to be redeemed. I used to think of God as austere and distant, looking down at me through the clouds, ready to point a finger at my next failure, mistake, or sin. (Might this explain my "Failaphobia"?!?) I thought that if I fully gave my life to God, He would ruin it, or make me do something I hated. But He has totally redeemed my wrong ideas of who He is, and how He views and deals with me. I now know Him to be a loving God who wants the best for me. I know His benevolent Father's-heart for me is the same for you!

  • HOSPITALITY - For the first three decades of my life, it was very hard for me to have people to our home. I felt totally inadequate, and was overwhelmed and frenzied when we did have people over, which was seldom. But then, here 'n' there, when I was invited places, I started noticing how I felt at the homes of people who were particularly hospitable, in a very quiet, considerate way. I felt loved and cared for in their home ~ and in their presence, really. The Lord redeemed my thinking about hospitality by showing me ~ through people I experienced it with ~ that hospitality is really just loving and serving people. It's not about their house, their wealth, their stuff; it's just about loving and serving!





Perhaps you're in a heartbreaking situation. Maybe with a child... a marriage... your finances... a relationship... your job... your reputation... something in the court system... Something you desperately need God to redeem...

You name it; God can redeem it. But we have to let Him do it His way, and in His timing.

He can, and it's not up to YOU! I'm talking about situations that are waaaay beyond your ability to figure them out, fix them, do anything about them, or sometimes, to even feel there's any way to live through... without direct help and intervention from God.


exactly the

business God

is in!

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So how does God redeem "any or all of the above"? That is what I share in Part 3 of this "Beauty for Ashes" series: "HOW Does God Redeem Stuff?"!

And in case you started with this article and missed the first one in this series, "The Blue Chip Stamp Story," please start there. It'll greatly enhance this article.​

(This last note contains an Amazon Affiliate link, which means I may

receive compensation if you purchase it, but at no extra cost to you.)

And one last (but not least) thing... If you are ready to move onto working with (being used by) God to redeem things outside your own realm ~ say like the world ~ here's a book by Bill Johnson whose insight and wisdom bless and impact me deeply: Dreaming With God by Bill Johnson.


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