Reckoning and Redemption

“The effect of tragedy, in life and in art, is that it leaves us aching for a reckoning or for redemption.” –SRT Judges Study

This sentence caused me to stop. Its unassuming nature, written very small and on dark paper, should have meant that it was lumped in with the rest of the words on the page. But for me it wasn’t just another sentence on the page. I reread the words dissecting each. There is so much packed into that sentence.

There is assurance in this sentence that tragedy will affect you. You will feel its effects. It cannot, not leave a mark. But the how of its effects on you is equally as important as the fact that it will affect you.

I spent the years post deployment awaiting the reckoning; the settling of accounts if you will. Awaiting the time when all that my family had been through would be made right. Things would be leveled out and life would feel fair. Reckoning looks a lot like resentment some days.

In those days of waiting, I wasted a lot of energy pointing fingers at the people and institutions that I thought owed me.

What I realize now, is the ache that could not be filled by mounting resentments over the lack of reckoning, was actually an ache for redemption.


I’ve sat on these 250 words for almost a year now. I’ve reopened this file and reread and edited numerous times trying to get at what I feel when I read the opening line.

I couldn’t write the ending because I couldn’t see the redemption. I was still waiting for it happen because redemption didn’t look like I thought it was going to.

Now I know I couldn’t write the redemption piece to this story because I didn’t have all the information. There was a large piece of the puzzle that was missing and without it I was never going to see the redemption I was looking for this side of heaven.

The missing piece has been found. When it was placed in the puzzle the whole picture became clear. Clarity looks a lot like reckoning; the summing up of past events and the settling of accounts.

And redemption still doesn’t look the way I thought it would.

I wanted redemption to look like a lack of worry, a lack of arguments, a lack of raised voices. In some ways it does look that way. In other ways it looks like the opening of old wounds, the processing of new information, and lot of tears.

Redemption is messy and it occurs to me that to think that it wouldn’t be messy is ludicrous. There is nothing clean about true redemption. True redemption required blood, sweat, tears, and death. Why would I assume that redemption for me would look any other way?

I wanted redemption to look like an abundance of health, an abundance of laughter, an abundance of love. And I wanted it to look that way right now. I believe that in time it will. Redemption will look like all of these things.

But first the reckoning. The painful clarity and the settling of accounts.

I’ve learned that what we really ache for when tragedy strikes, is both. To see the redemption I must first feel the reckoning. Tragedy will strike and I will heal as the process of reckoning paves the way to redemption.

high angle view of cobblestone street
Photo by Pixabay on

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