Redemption is messy. It’s not a smooth liner process. This is part of what makes it such a profound piece of life, but also what makes it so difficult to represent. So often small anecdotes of redemption seem to cut out the mess and the victims are redeemed and the villains get theirs…then the credits roll. But this doesn’t seem to ring true in my own life.
The victims and the villains often switch roles throughout the drama. In teaching high school I so often see the bullied turn around and become the bully, right before they go back to being bullied in the next turn. Because of this there is no clean way to portray authentic redemption. While a viewer might feel sorry for Will, one of the main characters in The Butterfly Circus, he/she certainly doesn’t like Will in first meeting him. He’s not just the victim of life, he is also a villain as he spits in Mr. Mendez’s face toward the beginning of the short. As is true in many of our lives, Will is also victim and villain of his own life and perception. Will has been offered a life outside of the sideshow he existed in for so long, but even when he is given a chance to leave the sideshow, a part of him still longs for the attention he had known for so long. He is saddened when a young boy is enamored with the strong man, and asks if Will is also in the circus. All Will can say is “no.”
Redemption is like that though. Every step forward is a bit wobbly and more often than not we fall backwards from time to time. What has kept Will from being anything other than a victim is his own perception of himself. All he can see himself as is a grotesque sideshow. He is frustrated that he can’t “do anything” like the other performers in the Butterfly Circus. He can only see what is possible in the images of what is possible for others. But redemption doesn’t work that way. Redemption has to be unique for each of us because our hurts and bruises and cuts did not all come from the same place in the same manner. While band-aids come in different shapes and sizes I always find myself twisting and reapplying the bandage to get it to fit the unique cut on an odd shaped part of my body. But, thank God, redemption isn’t just a band-aid; it isn’t one-size fits all. Redemption is the beautiful moment when Will discovers the unique place where he belongs.