The world loves a good redemption story, so when Tiger Woods, after years of poor choices, medical issues and embarrassing moments came back to win the Masters, people everywhere celebrated. I was among them, using it as an allegory to teach my teens how there is always a way back and that any time they fail, make a mistake, or disappoint themselves or God, they have the opportunity to be the author of their own comeback story.

As I posted these thoughts on social media, a friend replied, “Is it possible to over celebrate redemption stories? He hurt a lot of people and he’s basically a hero right now.” It only took a couple of seconds before the answer came to my mind. “No. If you believe in Jesus, redemption is the only story.”

I understood where he was coming from. I remember being a diligent and mostly obedient teen, reading the story of the Prodigal Son. I thought it was especially unfair that a party was thrown for the kid who had wasted all his money and made poor choices instead of for the brother who had always done the right thing. I didn’t understand how any parent would be happy to have a kid like that back.

And then I became a parent, and all of sudden, I got it. I understood the intense love you feel for your children independent of their choices and the hope and desire you have for everyone to somehow, “return home” even if they are broke and broken when they walk through the door.

The joy of the redemption story doesn’t minimize or lessen the love and gratitude you feel for the ones who have constantly and quietly done the right thing. It doesn’t erase the growth, trust and opportunities they have been given because of good choices and a clean life. They might not be the hero of the moment, but there are more important, more lasting rewards that await.  

Redemption also doesn’t erase the heartache, the embarrassment, the difficult lessons and pain that are felt by the prodigal one and those who loved him along the way. After the party, there will still be a lifetime of reconciliation and forgiveness to follow. It is a longer, harder road than most of us get to see in one evening celebration or on 60 second highlight reels.

Our redemption story may not play out under the hot lights of a media frenzy or in the vivid color of prime time TV, but it unfolds in our ordinary lives, inside the protective walls of our homes or in the quiet corners of our heart when there comes a time we all need a fresh start, a do over, a Savior.  

I think the world loves redemption stories because they remind us all that someone above is rooting for us, that there is a greater, bigger power that wants us all to succeed. That when we fall short of our potential, when we squander our time and talents on things of little worth, when we turn our back on those who need us most, when we forget who we are and where we come from, our Father is still waiting in the doorway with arms outstretched ready to welcome us back with all the love we don’t deserve.

So, I ask myself again, “Is it possible to over celebrate redemption stories?”

My emphatic answer? “No, never.”