The Power of Redemption

Kyle Smith

Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

What do the wizard of oz, The Shawshank Redemption, and Raiders of the Lost Ark all have in common?

Answer: They are all movies that show us the power of redemption.

We normally talk about “redemption” in a religious context but the word has meaning far beyond that. Redemption is all about recovering something that’s lost, delivering people from the clutches of evil, or setting the world right. It’s making things the way they’re supposed to be.

The Wizard of Oz tells the story of Dorothy, a farm girl who feels unappreciated and wants to escape from her boring life. A tornado sweeps her away on a grand adventure, and in the end she learns that there’s no place like home.

In The Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne is sent to prison after being wrongly convicted of murdering his wife and her lover. He takes his friend Red’s advice to “get busy living, or get busy dying,” becomes influential in the prison, and eventually finds freedom on his own terms.

Raiders of the Lost Ark follows archaeologist Indiana Jones on a globetrotting adventure in search of the Ark of the Covenant. In a delicious thematic reversal of the Holocaust, God uses a Jewish religious artifact to defeat the evil Nazis.

These are stories of redemption where hope prevails, good triumphs over evil, and the world is set right again.

Artists are agents of hope. With every note on an instrument, brushstroke on the canvas, or word on the page, you are weaving a story of redemption. You are helping set the world right.

As a guitarist, I’ve devoted a good chunk of my professional life to playing and listening to music. One of my favorite songs is Geoff Moore’s “When All is Said and Done.” The song reminds me of my priorities, and how my life won’t be measured by my accomplishments and accolades. In many ways it’s the theme song of my life.

There are countless musicians who have inspired change and action. Here are a few:

· Steven Curtis Chapman’s song “When Loves Takes You In” was inspired by his family’s adoption process, and continues to inspire others to consider adoption.

· For several decades, U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” has been an anthem of hope for equality and justice.

· The Australian worship band Hillsong United has inspired people around the world to worship God in both song and social action.

· The 1985 anthem “We Are the World” was a worldwide sensation that raised funds for humanitarian aid in Africa.

Redemption can shine through any kind of art. You can package hope in many different ways. But how do you create redemptive art that brings hope to a dark world? There are two keys:

1. Redemptive art must be excellent. Whatever type of art you do, make every effort to do your best. No one pays attention to art that isn’t done well.

2. Redemptive art must be authentic. People have to understand the darkness before they can appreciate the light. Don’t hide your mistakes, your scars, or the not-so-pretty parts of your story. Those parts are what make hope so compelling.

How does your art tell a story of redemption? How does your work help set the world right? Is it a story of hope? Grace? Renewal? Forgiveness? Rescue? Mercy? Love? Reconciliation?

Your art doesn’t need to change the whole world to make an impact. It just needs to change one person’s world.

Questions for Reflection

1. Why is redemption such a universal theme in art?

2. What is a song, movie, poem, or other work of art that has inspired you? How does it contain a message of redemption?

3. Do you think of yourself as an agent of hope? Why or why not? How does that change your perspective on your creative work?

4. Does it scare you a bit to be authentic in your art? Why are we sometimes so afraid to tell the not-so-pretty parts of our story?

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I write about writing, productivity, creativity, and much more.

St. Louis, MO

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