Every story of redemption starts with a story of loss. Until a person recognizes his or her brokenness, there can be no story of redemption.
At some point in your life, something broke you. Maybe nobody else knows that. Maybe you’re good at hiding it. And maybe you don’t even admit it to yourself.
But somewhere along the way, we all get lost. We all get broken. Some people cover it up. Some people embrace the brokenness and claim they like living that way. Most of us live in denial about it for as long as we can.
Finding redemption is messy. It involves getting honest with ourselves and others. It means we finally stop lying and pretending. It means we give up our pride.
And this is the reason most people never find redemption for themselves. They choose to live with lies and denial rather than to face the painful truth, even though they long for something deeply transformative and they desperately wish for a way out of something they can’t quite identify.
The ones who never find redemption are tragic. The beautiful stories are of those who are deeply broken and lost, yet find hope and redemption. It‘s their stories I need to tell.
I realized this in a profound way just a few weeks ago. All of the stories that I long to share ultimately follow this path. In one way or another, every character in every story I feel called to share with the world has an arc of brokenness and redemption.
I realize that this story arc of being broken and then finding redemption is my own story. It’s the story of every man or woman who ultimately finds what he needs in life — because we are all broken at some point. We are all lost. Few of us find redemption, but this is truly the Good News of the human experience.
I grew up in brokenness. I became aware early in life that I was lost. I stumbled through heavy mist that left me unable to see what was in front of me. And in a profound way — one which goes deeper in the heart than the shallow redemption experience which we see in modern religious life — God had to redeem me in complicated ways.
The world hungers for these stories, even though most people have become cynical about whether the brokenness of their lives can be redeemed. I think I need to tell these stories — through film and other media — because they mean so much to me and because there are many people who are hungry to find hope that their lives can be meaningful.
Every broken person I’ve known in real life has shared something simple. Every single one of them has been desperate to find love — not just a romantic partnership, but something much deeper. Searching for redemption always involves the effort to find love to fill a deep inner need. Most people who search for that love settle for counterfeits that have no chance of filling the need, because they run away from love when they find out the price they have to pay to have it.
In an odd way, you can see the deep hunger for love in the words of one of fiction’s great villains.
“Do you believe in destiny?” asks Count Dracula in the 1992 movie version of Bram Stoker’s classic book. “That even the powers of time can be altered for a single purpose? That the luckiest man who walks on this earth is the one who finds true love?”
Think about the juxtaposition. Even a man who lives by sucking the life force out of others knows what he really needs. It’s not more blood. It’s not random violence or mayhem. This deeply flawed character knows that he needs the specific love he’s been searching for through the centuries.
Dracula is a tragic villain and isn’t going to be able to find love, but you and I can still find it if we choose. In some stories, redemption is romantic love. In some stories, it’s love of a family. In other stories, it’s love from a Creator.
In most stories of redemption, there seem to be two clear paths — one toward paying the price required and thus finding redemption and another toward continued denial and loss. We all know people who have faced such a choice.
One of the stories that I need to tell one day is of my father, but I’ve realized recently that when I tell his story, it’s hard for me to tell it without telling my story as well. In various ways — most recently in one of my podcast episodes — I’ve talked with you about the fact that my father tried to turn me into a narcissist just like him.
To tell our stories, I have to show how we made different choices. As recently as when I cut off contact with him a decade ago, I begged him to go to therapy and fix the things that were wrong in his life. In a very specific and conscious way, he told me — in an email — that it was too late in life for him to change.
For him, it was a choice not to change.
My father’s part of this story is the sad ending that comes without redemption. My part of the story is still ongoing, but it leads down a much different path — because I saw what he had become and decided to pay the steep price of giving up much of who I used to be. Our story arcs are much different because of those choices.
I’ve realized lately that many of the stories I need to tell follow some form of this arc. One choice leads to unhappiness and loneliness. The other choice leads to the hope of redemption in the broadest sense.
I don’t know entirely how I need to tell these stories. I assume I’ll tell some through movies but there might be other ways of telling those stories, too, such as books or podcasts or something else. These stories might not always look like redemption stories from the outside, but this is the theme at the heart of those stories.
I don’t know what the market is for these stories. I don’t know who wants to finance them. I don’t know who will believe in my vision ahead of time. I have no idea. I don’t even have a plan yet.
But I know where I’m going with these stories. I’m going to show how broken people — and that includes you and me — face choices that lead us toward redemption or ruin, toward love or loneliness, toward hope or emptiness.
This is the core choice of the human life — and the Good News I bring is that we can find love and redemption if we’re willing to give up everything we once thought was important.