Hope Builder #2: Choose Life

“Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying!”  (Andy Dusfresne)

Hope is always an active choice.

thIn the movie Shawshank Redemption, a banker named Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is unjustly convicted for the murder of his adulterous wife and her lover. Andy is sentenced to two consecutive life terms at Shawshank, a notoriously brutal state penitentiary. He befriends Red (Morgan Freeman) who helps him to learn the ropes of his new life in prison.

Strangely, Andy possesses an immunity to the dehumanizing process of prison life; a devolution the inmates call being “institutionalized”. Once fully institutionalized, a man surrenders his hope. Andy never becomes institutionalized.

Andy’s hope empowers him to overcome persistent and grievous injustices and then devote himself to improving the lives of his friends. He magically creates moments when the prison walls all but vanish in the eyes of his fellow inmates.  At one point, he gains unauthorized access to the prison’s loudspeakers and plays Mozart (Le nozze di Figaro) to the whole prison compound.

“I tell you those voices soared, higher and further than anyone in a great place dares to dream.”  Red proclaimed.  “It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments every last man in Shawshank felt free.”

Andy’s punishment is two weeks in solitary confinement. When he returns to the general prison population, his friends ask him if his stunt was worth the cost. Andy replies that it was the easiest time he ever did because Mozart’s music helped him forget.

“Forget?” Red asks.

“Forget that there are places in the world that aren’t made out of stone. That there is something inside that they can’t get to. That they can’t touch. It’s yours.” Andy says.

“What are you talking about?” Red asks.

“Hope.” Andy says.

“Hope? Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. Its got no use on the inside. You better get used to the idea.” Red says.

“Like Brooks did?” Andy quips.  (Brooks Hatlen, their friend, had become institutionalize and lost hope.  When Brooks was freed from prison, fear ruled him and he eventually hung himself.)

Everything came down to a simple choice for Andy. When suffering, we either choose life or choose death. Those are the only options.  Andy fought for hope with all his energy. In the end, hope won!

The same choice faces us all. We cannot control terrible things from happening. But we can control how we respond.  Each moment we can choose to “get busy living or get busy dying”.

What will you choose? Realizing there is no middle ground is the first step out of the solitary confinement of helplessness. If you keep stepping toward hope, your own prison walls will begin to disappear. Like Andy Dusfresne you may even give other people a glimpse of life beyond these stone walls.  But, the more depressed you are, the more likely you are to ignore Andy’s charge. Feeling helpless you’ll believe there is middle ground between “get busy living or get busy dying”.  You’ll think you don’t have to choose, or worse that you can’t chose.  But that is a lie, believable, but false.  And this lie will blind you to the hopeless choices you are already making.

The Bible says it this way.  “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off… I have set before you life and death… choose life.”  You might ask, “How do I choose life?”  The verse continues, “[By] loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice, and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days.” Deuteronomy 30:11,19-20

Some of you might be thinking, “I need more than a promise.  I need help.  I need someone to show the way.  If only I had my own Andy Dufresne!”  You have someone better!  Jesus Christ was the only innocent person to live in the prison of this fallen world and never give up hope.  He too devoted himself to improving the lives of his friends. He got busy living and giving life — even his own life on the cross!  As a result, Jesus has torn down the stone walls that blind us to the world beyond.  Knowing Him allows you to sense the beauty of the real world and feel like you are free.

Hold fast to Jesus and hope will find a way!

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