So AMC, the television network, is doing “We Can’t Get Enough Shawshank” – Shawshank Redemption back-to-back-to-back at 8 PM and 11 PM 4 nights in a row. Being a fan of the movie, and usually sitting at my computer at night, I set it in the background. After seeing it for the 3rd time in 2 days, even in the background, you see things you never saw before. What I saw this time that I hadn’t seen before was that almost immediately after something that create an opportunity for hope, Andy Dufresne endures something else that creates an opportunity for despair. When he first realized that he could tunnel through the wall and the following day asks Red for a Rita Hayworth poster, he takes the beating from the Sisters that puts him in the hospital for a month. Immediately after getting the delivery of books and the check from the state legislature, he is sent to the hole for playing the music over the loud speaker and locking himself in the office. Immediately after learning of Tommy’s conversation with Elmo Blatch that would prove his innocence, he mouths off to the warden and gets sent to the hole again.
Right in the title, Shawshank Redemption is a story of hope and in the end, of redemption, but for Andy, hope had to rest in the immediacy of the moment, because the next moment it would be gone. After he was sent to prison, I would assume that the majority of his life was made of moments that would create despair instead of hope, but he managed to maintain hope. He had hope for release, hope of exoneration, and spread hope to others through helping others get their educations. His hope was not defined by his overall situation, but by those single moments where he had reason to believe that his situation would one day be better. I don’t think many people understand hope like Andy did, I think most people have hope when they measure the balance of the good moments against the bad. If there are more good moments, they have hope, if there are more bad moments, they don’t have it. But Andy is able to rest and remain hopeful on single moments.
This reminds me of the story of David in 1 Samuel 17:34, when David is first challenged by Saul on whether he will be able to fight Goliath, he mentions specific instances of when he was able to fight off a lion or a bear while he was tending his father’s sheep. You’ll notice he didn’t mention whether things were “going his way”, and being the youngest of many brothers, I doubt things went his way very often. To find real hope, I think we need to look in David’s examples and in Andy’s, regardless of the balance of the way things are going in our life, our hope needs to rest on those single moments where things went right.
9/17/2011 UPDATE: I happened to be watching the movie again today and noticed that Andy’s rock hammer cutout in his bible started at the first page of the book of Exodus. For those of you not biblically inclined, the book of Exodus is primarily about how the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt and got to the promised land – lots of parallels there.