I’ve never been in prison.
I’ve visited people in prison. I remember one Christmas time, handing out presents to the big burly inmates. I only feared for my life twice. Some told me of their innocence. Others explained in no uncertain terms why they make a good prison buddy.
Prisons are far from glamorous. Cages everywhere. Barbwire fences. Prison officers with large egos. You should have seen the maximum-security area I visited. We weren’t even able to say hello to those blokes and could only peer through a small slit in the wall.
Other than an irregular visit, you might be like me. You’ve never been in prison. No one ever found out you shop-lifted that lollipop back when you were five and other than a few parking tickets here and there, you’re squeaky clean.
I could be wrong. You might have a coloured history. I’m not making a judgment. I don’t know you from a bar of soap (not that I compare you to soap).
We have it all
In the context of western civilization, we have it all. Netflix. Supermarkets overloaded with choice. Healthcare. Social services. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Donald Trump. I digress.
We are spoilt. We are rich. Even if you’re on employment benefits from the government, you’re living above the threshold of millions of others around the world.
We have freedom of speech. We have democracy. We have ideas and creativity expressed in art galleries and Instagram. We eat steak and chips and put on instant grams.
There is relative freedom. You don’t have to have one of the 28 North Korean state-approved haircuts. Lucky for me – I went with the unpretentious bald look.
I am not over exaggerating here: We are very blessed!
Who’s in the prison?
Why then, are so many people still struggling?
Family violence. Family breakdowns. Family feuds without Grant Denyer. Unemployment. Homelessness. Drugs addictions. Debt up to the eyeballs. You get the picture.
This is my thesis: Many of us may not be in a bricks and mortar prison, but we live our lives in a metaphorical prison cell of defeatism and unworthiness, bound by our fears and insecurities.
We question our self-worth. We become successful only to feel like a failure. We gain a promotion only to feel that we chose the wrong path in life. We end up living in a metaphorical prison.
Only now, at the ripe old age of 35, am I starting to think, ‘What could life be like if I didn’t think so pessimistically about myself?’ and ‘I wonder how my day would be different, if I wasn’t living in that ongoing cycle of fear and angst?’
I don’t have all the solutions, but I have a lot of questions:
Why do we live in such an affluent society, yet seem to express so little hope?
What makes a Sri Lankan child in an orphanage smile from ear to ear, even when she has lost both her parents in the civil war between the Tamil tigers and Sinhalese Government, yet I’m unhappy when I can’t locate the remote control?
What causes us to lack self-esteem when we have so much to give?
What could I possibly do to escape the emotional baggage of the past?
There’s a story of Paul and Silas in the first century (found in Acts chapter 16 in the Bible), who were brought before the authorities, then severely beaten and thrown in jail. What happened next amazes me. They were in this dingy prison cell and prayed and sang hymns to God! Then, only by the power of God, the prison doors flung open. They were free! That was a night to remember.
I think God hurls the spiritual prison cell open for us, through the work of God’s son, Jesus Christ. He died on the cross and rose again on the third day, and it’s like the gate to the cell just flung open.
We then have a choice. Will we remain in the cell, caught up in our emotional struggles, or will we choose to step out of the perpetual cycle of defeatism?
Nelson Mandela (who spent 27 years in a jail cell), nails it:
‘As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.’
I have one more thought for you:
If you want to walk in freedom, you have to get out of the cage.
Pete Brookshaw is the Senior Minister of The Salvation Army Craigieburn. He has a Bachelor of both Business and Theology and is passionate about the church being dynamic and effective in the world and creating communities of faith that are outward-focused, innovative, passionate about the lost and committed to societal change. He has been blogging since 2006 at www.petebrookshaw.com about leadership and faith.
Peter Brookshaw’s previous articles may be viewed at: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/peter-brookshaw.html
Pete Brookshaw is the Senior Minister of The Salvation Army Craigieburn. He has a Bachelor of both Business and Theology and is passionate about the church being dynamic and effective in the world and creating communities of faith that are outward-focused, innovative, passionate about the lost and committed to societal change. He has been blogging since 2006 at http://www.petebrookshaw.com about leadership and faith and you can find him on:
Peter Brookshaw’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/peter-brookshaw.html