For this week, I am going to share my “takeaway” from Frank Darabont’s 1994 American prison drama film, The Shawshank Redemption (Adapted from Stephen King’s novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption), which was the 7th episode of our podcast. You can check it out if you would like to hear more about the movie itself and any plot points that you’re curious about or if you would like to hear our conversation that develops a variety of themes throughout.  I hope you enjoy thinking critically about the content! Feel free to comment, share any thoughts, or leave information on whatever movies you would like to hear about in the future!


Stephen King’s plot summary: “Shawshank Redemption” tells the story of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), wrongly imprisoned for the murder of his wife and her lover. Over the course of his lengthy imprisonment, Dufresne forges allies within the prison, in particular “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman) and Brooks Hatlen (James Whitmore). His background in accounting as a bank employee leads to his being chosen to assist corrupt Warden Norton (Bob Gunton) and many of the prison guards with their financial needs and earns him privileges that enable him to make plans for a life outside Shawshank’s concrete walls.”

This film seems to have made it onto everyone’s list of favorite movies. How does a film set within an environment that most can’t relate to, namely prison, become so relatable to its audience? Could it be universally desirable themes of hope, redemption, salvation, and so many more? That’s one line of reasoning.

I watched this film for the very first time in preparation for this podcast. I know – that sounds like a crime in itself for a person who enjoys this industry like I do. But I found it every bit as engrossing as I had been led to believe. It’s a plot you can’t tear your eyes from. It has you on the edge of your seat as you witness this “fish-out-of-water” story in a place where some of the most troubled of humanity call home. And believe me – it is waters this fish (yours truly) would be terrified to visit. But that’s the way I often view movies. I can’t separate myself from the circumstances of the protagonist. So, where did I find myself landing when I viewed myself within this classic and through the lens of spirituality?

I couldn’t help comparing prison a bit to earth. We’re not built for this place, you know? God designed us to be walking with Him in paradise, but then our imperfections got in the way. I believe that is why everyone, whether we believe in God or not, have times of extreme dissatisfaction or mental strain while living in this life. If there were no other way, I think we would weather the storms of life like the spider whose web I swept up last night. It didn’t seem depressed or even that distressed at the event. It only seemed to sense its instincts that tell it to “get out of dodge” and begin again. And yet I saw a video online last week of a couple who emerged from their basement to find the aftermath of a terrible tornado that swept their home away and the anguish in their cries was haunting. Why? Why will they spend their futures trying to rebuild the lives they lost, and very possibly dealing with a heavy dose of PTSD, instead of just listening to instincts and moving along to the next destination they might call home? Perhaps it’s the internal sense that’s been placed within us that these struggles aren’t all that there is. These earthly struggles aren’t what we’re built for. We’re built for Paradise and yet down here, we live in the brokenness of a truly chaotic world and our internal senses tell us it’s just not right.

No, we’re made for freedom. And not just a freedom from accountability or from any objective standards which is what we are often told is what freedom should be all about. What is biblical freedom, according to the Author of the concept in the first place? Paul writes that, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” in Galatians 5:1. What on earth does he mean? In the previous chapter, he writes about his concern for the church there in Galatia. That concern was that they would enslave themselves to all that is not God. They would give over the freedom that God had built them for to be under the Law of works. In this way, righteousness and redemption are all about how hard we work to make ourselves right, to which Paul writes that they should “not let [them]selves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Instead, he tells us in verses 4-6 that “you who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” In other words, he’s telling the Galatians to please top trying to earn their “rightness” on works because it’s actually separating them from Christ and the grace that He so freely gives! Faith alone in the love and grace of Christ alone sends us to righteousness and acceptability in His sight. That’s it! That’s the freedom we’re built for. And yet, in the flesh and in this broken world, we continually find ourselves drawn into a desire to prove ourselves worthy when, in fact, it has nothing to do with us in the first place.

This is often how the Church works. It combats a narrative from the world that states that we’re good just as we are. That we’re far from broken. That the idea of sin within ourselves is wrong and that salvation comes from within ourselves. But my heart breaks because I wholeheartedly believe this view from the world is actually in response to unhealthy and unbiblical stances held by the Church. The Church has a doctrine of the imago dei, or that every single human made in the image of God has value, not because they have proven it to the world or to themselves, but because God says they’re worthy of His love. We struggle though, in America especially and myself most of all, to actually apply that intellectual doctrine to life. We place expectations on people to be as we want them to be. In essence, we tell them that our love is inaccessible to them unless they do as we say they should do, when in fact, the Church’s message was always meant to be about God’s love, which is written in His blood for both believers and unbelievers, lost and found, moral and immoral, clean and addicted, Republican and Democrat, chaste and debauched, lovable or unlovable by human standards. That is hope. Not the Church’s love for them, but their Creator’s love for them. That is the hope the world needs to hear – that His blood was already spilled for them. All they need to do is receive this Love that God has already offered and they can be saved.

This is the prison in which we live. These are the choices to which we so often are forced into: is the individual valuable because they are being true to their supposed perfection, or is the person not valuable because they can’t accept that they’re broken? Like so many foundational biblical truths, God has determined these views to meet in the middle with the unadulterated doctrine of the imago dei

Yes, human being. You are broken. You are sinful and in need of a Savior. And yet you are loved perfectly and absolutely just as you are. Does God have a plan for your flourishing which ultimately leads away from the flesh and towards the Spirit? Yes, fortunately that is true. And yet, you with all your sexual brokenness, addiction, anger management problems, eating disorders, self-hatred, self-pride, fundamentalism, pharisaicalism, legalism, and judgment are loved by God as you are and worthy of His death on the cross.

And that leads to hope. Hope for what is beyond those walls ultimately gets Andy his chance at freedom. And hope for what is beyond slavery to sin is what gets us a chance at freedom. It’s not our own efforts that get us there. It’s the blood of Jesus.

Christian. Non-Christian. Do you accept that Jesus loves you exactly as you are? That He went to that cross because He saw you as worthy of His love? I hope you do because the freedom that this truth brings you is beyond anything else you’ll ever experience. Be like Andy Dufresne in that prison and grasp the hope that there is something better than this place can provide!

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Love you all,


Behind the Silver Screen: The Shawshank Redemption

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