I love the movie Shawshank Redemption. Andy’s journey through a horrific experience displays his strength of character, his determination to control his own destiny, and his persistence to create his own choices.
Andy is dealt blow after blow of unjust, cruel circumstances and punishments. Whether he does everything right or everything wrong, he is dealt another devastating blow. I think what we like about Andy is that he did not let the situation define him. He remained true to himself even in the face of evil, corruption, and unjustness. He is the ideal that we want for ourselves. We want to survive. We want to make it through with our character intact.
So how did he do it? The short answer:
"Andy crawled to freedom through five hundred yards of **** smelling foulness I can't even imagine, or maybe I just don't want to. Five hundred yards... that's the length of five football fields, just shy of half a mile." Red
Andy’s journey ends with crawling through the sewer, but it begins long before that event. Andy was determined to not allow his circumstances rule his ultimate end. He planned for years. He worked slowly, diligently at his plans until the time was right. Twenty years he planned…worked…waited. Twenty years he endured the harshest of conditions and corruption before he could see the end.
We sometimes feel like Andy during the twenty years. We are suffering. We are hurting. We can’t see the end. We feel as if each blow will take us out, and we can’t imagine a way out much less envision the freedom.
Let’s look at what Andy did for those twenty years to help him survive:
Every part of Andy’s journey was hard-from an innocent man entering prison; enduring abuse and corruption; being punished for any offense or for no offense; and crawling through 500 yards of sewer.
Our journeys are hard too. Depression, anxiety, grief, eating disorders, and life obstacles make our journeys difficult to navigate. They weigh us down and take our focus off of the end-the freedom. These issues are not our final destination. They are obstacles that we endure and overcome to reach our goals. Although the journey at times feels impossible, we will finish. We can use Andy’s example to help us make it through our own journey – to have the strength to endure.
One aspect that I think the movie leaves out, at least for the Christian, is reliance on God to help us through the journey. I admit that I don’t always understand why we have to suffer through the journey, and maybe there is not a reason why except that we live in a fallen world where evil reigns. Faith in God does not bring a life without pain or obstacles. Faith in God brings support from God and hope for escape from this world. God offers peace in this world and certainty of a world beyond.
Some scriptures that resonate with me on the journey and peace are:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, “Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13
The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. Psalm 29:11
Whatever journey you are on, there is a positive end. You may be in the beginning of that journey where the end is unimaginable, or in the middle where you are bogged down with all of the pain and anxiety and sadness. You may be nearing the end where it could get worse before it gets better. No matter where you are on the journey, hold on to the goal and work your way through it. You can survive it and get to your freedom.
If you are already on the other side of an epic journey, reach out to those people still in the journey. Help them. Be their hope - their support so that they too can join you. I love that Andy also planned for Red. He loved his friend and wanted his friend to share his same freedom and reward.
Dr. Christine Belaire
Dr. Belaire is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and a National Certified Counselor. Belaire Counseling Services is located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana