There are a lot of television shows that deal with the topics of love, forgiveness, and redemption. However, for my taste, none have done so as poignantly or beautifully as the recently ended series “Fringe.” If you are a fan of the show, you will instantly recognize the feature image. This is the “White Tulip”, taken from the 18th episode of the second season. While I have not space here to go into the entire back-story of this Tulip, it is enough to say that this White Tulip became an incredibly important image for reformed mad-scientist Walter Bishop. This Tulip spoke of God’s forgiveness of Walter’s sins, and a releasing of the guilt he felt over all the destruction he had caused in his past. It spoke of God’s love for him, a love that transcends all time and dimensions. For this mad scientist longing to be redeemed, this paper flower carried the message of God’s presence with him, and all of humanity.
No wonder this image reappears during the final episode of the show, for in its simplicity, it beautifully captures what the show was all about. “Fringe” was not just this generation’s version of the X Files. It was not a show about ‘fringe science’ or horrific experiments gone wrong; nor was it a show about an FBI squad attempting to save the world from certain destruction. These were the mere vehicles in which Fringe poignantly told the story of forgiveness and redemption.
The beginning of the series showed each character broken and alone. One was in a mental institution. One was running from the law. One was emotionally cut off and void of human connections. Yet throughout the course of the series, each member goes through their own healing journey. They move from brokenness to healing, from abandonment to togetherness, from personal exile to redemption. Yet they are not only redeemed by each other, they are redeemed for each other. Each character plays a complex yet invaluable role in the healing of the other. Their lives are inextricably intertwined, and so too is their salvation. Beneath it all, and as one of the final scenes of the entire program, the image of the white tulip draws together the themes of love, sacrifice, redemption, and family. What is more, this image that moves the conversation away from the interdependence of all human beings; it is not content to stay in the realm of human love or human power. Rather, this image breathes into the show the reality that God is present in the lives of the characters. The white tulip speaks about God’s deep love for us, and God’s desire to see us redeemed.
And yet for all the wonder of this image, and for all the beauty of this story, the Fringe message doesn’t go far enough. For in the end, the White Tulip is simply a paper-thin flower drawn on a card. The card may span time-lines and dimensions, but it is still just a card. Yet we hold with us the story of redemption that is far, far greater. We hold the story of redemption that enfleshes itself in our lives. We hold the story of love and sacrifice – yet our story speaks of God’s love, and God’s sacrifice, not simply our own. What is more, the redemption we receive from Jesus is not one that simply resets time for the moment. No, the redemption of Jesus spans into eternity, and reveals the image of God in us through that deep removal of our sin.
We hold a beautiful story, and one not one locked in the confines of television scripts or screen shots. We hold a story of redemption that is available to any and to all. Let us live out our own White Tulip stories. Let us be open and bold about the story of our own redemption, and our own movements from brokenness to healing, from exile to salvation. Let us hold them before others, so that they may uncover the story of their own redemption, and enter into a joyful relationship with the one who loves them, and redeems them. Amen.
What images do you use to describe your own story of redemption?