We love a good redemption story and we find them, many times, at the heart of movies.
Redemption is a theme in movies such as Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Count of Monte Cristo, Les Miserables, Batman, Captain America, The Punisher and many, many more. In those movies, a character or characters must find a way to overcome something from their past (or present) that is dragging them down or holding them back from the future.
When Bruce Wayne overcomes the death of his parents and does more than just seek revenge on the killer, he finds redemption (and a Batman suit!).
When Steve Rogers overcomes his small size, the taunting he received and all of the rejection that came with it, he finds redemption (and becomes Captain America). When Edwin Dantes overcomes his false imprisonment, he is redeemed and becomes the “Count of Monte Cristo.”
Then again, we see the theme of redemption in so many places. We hear it in the story of the athlete who failed on one team but had a second chance and experienced redemption on another. We see it in the story of politicians who fail in running for office, but try again, win and experience redemption. We see it in the lives of the actors who portray characters in redemption stories. They, too, have moments where they overcome events in their lives to shine again.
It happens in school when the student everyone wrote off rises above expectations. There are times in the workplace when someone fails, maybe even miserably, on one project but changes the world on another.
In all honesty, we don’t have to look very far to find a redemption story. You might be living one right now.
So, what, then, does redemption mean for our life stories and why is it important that we experience it?
Let me pause for just a moment to put this in some perspective. This might be the first time that you are reading ReigniteMyStory.com. Or, you might just need a friendly reminder. So, let me catch us all up to speed on our core values:
- First, everyone has a life story to share. That’s the foundation of everything and you are writing a story with your life. Someone in your life is “reading” your life story.
- Second, every story needs a reset. We’re imperfect beings and, at some point along the way, things get sideways. We need a reset, a do-over, mulligan, etc.
- Third, every story needs renewal. It’s not enough to reset our stories, we have to take steps to keep our momentum rolling and to propel us toward the change(s) we need to make.
That brings us to the fourth core value: Every story needs redemption. Every single life story has, at least, one place, event, relationship, or just a moment in time that needs to be redeemed. Maybe it’s a place where we were hurt. Maybe it’s a relationship that changed us. Maybe it was a loss that we experienced, a time of grief and mourning (we also grieve and mourn more than death — we can grieve any change in life). Maybe it’s a regret, or guilt, or shame, or fear, or doubt. The area where redemption is needed most will be a deeply personal place for us. That’s what makes redemption so difficult.
So for the practical sake of this post, lets unpack what “redeem” really means. Maybe, the simplest definition of redeem is making something that is bad or pleasant more acceptable. But redeeming our life story involves something more than that. When it comes to our life story, redemption is what truly sets us free.
There is a spot, place, event, moment in time, etc., in the past (or maybe you’re living through it right now) that will need to be redeemed. But the truth is you can’t take something that led you to great pain and simply polish it to make it acceptable in the present and future. That spot, place, event, moment in time has also shaped you into the person you are right now.
Maybe redemption involves taking that moment of time in our past, taking a good look at it and learning what we can from it, and then realizing that it is still a part of our present and future. However, in redemption, we find a different way to see that moment of time in light of who we are. While it is still there, we free ourselves from the way it is pulling us back.
Maybe when we free ourselves and experience redemption, we begin to say things such as this:
- That was who I used to be, but it’s not who I am now.
- I was hurt in the past, but I’m going to take that energy and put to use in such a way that I and others don’t have to experience it as I did.
- Yes, I made mistakes in my life, but I learned from them and I grew into who I am now.
So how do we view redemption? In most of the movies and stories that we mentioned, there’s something that’s happening to the main character. The main character has a goal, but there’s moment in time, and this challenge that is somehow holding the main character back. When the main character finally gets past that challenge redemption is found.
Redeeming our stories can involve that moment when we step past our past to live into a bigger and better future.
Looking at this from a faith perspective, you see that there are bigger things at play in your life story and redemption. Some of them are well above our pay grade. Bob Goff, in his book Love Does, writes, “God finds us in the holes we dig for ourselves. We see failures; he sees foundations.”
Redemption seems to come with a pattern for us.
First, we must choose to bring redemption into our stories. That must be our attitude or redemption will be an empty exercise.
Second, redemption will often involve making a sacrifice. I must sacrifice holding on to the emotions, the pain, the grudge, the guilt, the anger, the power over someone else to truly redeem my own story. That doesn’t mean we simply ignore that moment in time; it does mean that we free ourselves from the burden of all that might come with it.
Third, redemption involves changing our view. Prior to redemption, we can see those moments in time as things that are holding me back, as something that defines me, as an obstacle I cannot overcome. However, if we truly choose to redeem my life story, then we must now see those moments in time as something that has shaped me, as a challenge to live in a better way, as the opportunity to take the energy and emotion that we have invested in those past moments in time and redirect them to do something positive in the present and future (and yes, anger can be positive when it helps to bring needed change in our lives).
Your story, my story, all of our stories have places that we need to redeem. Are we willing to choose redemption, to make the appropriate sacrifices and to change our view? If we can find a way through this step (and, admittedly, a difficult one), then we can experience redemption and, ultimately, we can reignite our story.
Thank you for the opportunity to begin this conversation on redemption and I’m looking forward to continuing this conversation in future posts as we continue to define “redemption.”
ReigniteMyStory.com is based on the thought that every life story can be reignited when we are willing to reset it, renew it and redeem it. You may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter at @reignitemystory