Because we have access to 24-hour news, it’s likely that anyone reading this will have at least heard the details of the Golden Voiced Homeless Man Ted Williams. Living in Columbus, OH having lost everything due to alcohol and being estranged from his family, Ted Williams became a YouTube sensation and was moved from homelessness to reunion with family to “gainful” employment. And then, alcohol returned and the press and onlookers began to shake their heads and the goodness of the story began to disappear.
Because, well, that’s what happens in real life. There is no fairy tale ending, no prince that rescues the maiden. It’s all about gut-level, no-one-ever-really-changes rationalism that makes us suspicious whenever something beautiful seems to be going on. It can’t be real. It can’t last. Look at the Golden Voiced Homeless Man.
Everyone has a different reaction to Williams’ relapse. Dr. Phil got involved, and well, I’ll leave that one alone but I want to pick out a few things that we learn about redemption from Ted Williams’ story.
1. Redemption happens in strange ways. God uses reporters, YouTube, floods, and frogs to bring about redemption. Being open to the extent of possibilities for God to work forgiveness and restoration will help us let go of trying to control outcomes, especially when we are asked to forgive someone else. Openness to the possibility of redemption in any and every situation is the great mystery of the Bible.
2. Redemption is messy. Ted Williams story is a signpost that fairy tale endings are not automatically “endings” in the sense of completed, finished, and never to be altered. Redemption takes more time just because of the battle that goes on between the redemptive force and the place from which we need to be rescued (see Paul in Romans 7). Forgiveness and healing don’t mean complete turnaround. God’s grace, while it is hard to say, does not ensure that a person will live into redemption fully and forever.
3. Redemption is difficult when you add high visibility. I have always believed that the search-engine world has made redemption nearly impossible. Once you fail in front of millions, it is difficult to “promote” or “spin” your redemption so that it is believable. I don’t think redemption was ever intended to be something that everyone was involved in – a community of people, yes, but a large indiscriminate group without understanding or relationship connecting them to each other is toxic for the process of redemption.
What redemption lessons do you learn from this story?