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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Prison Break

"Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. For he shatters the doors of bronze, and cuts in two the bars of iron."  (Psalm 107:15-16)

Several years ago the band Creed released a song which impacted my life in a great way. The song was "My Own Prison" and it speaks of the ways that we convict and lock ourself away in prisons of our own creation...."I cry out to God, seeking only his decision, Gabriel stands and confirms, I've created my own prison."  That song awakened something in me...the realization that my fears, insecurities, and feelings of unworthiness were the walls of a prison I had created.  I had tried to live up to the expectations I thought others had for me. I had the idea that I had to be in control or else I would be unhappy and dissatisfied with life. Yet, I also felt that I wasn't able to do any of those things well. So, I tried to hang back in the shadows. I didn't want to be noticed, I withdrew in many ways...and I was unhappy.

Surely Creed was correct. I had created these feelings that now trapped me. My insecurity had built the prison walls, seeking a secure place to be.  My fears had placed each bar in the window, seeking to keep danger at bay. My feelings of unworthiness had latched a heavy door to the cell, seeking to lock me away so others wouldn't notice how inadequate I was.  It was a great revelation that Creed allowed me and once I had identified the bricks and bars that were between me and freedom - I set out to dismantle each one. I was determined to make a great prison break!

Years when by and while I enjoyed some new freedom and greater confidence - I never seemed to stray far from my prison.  The walls, the bars, the doors were still there - I simply opened the door occasionally and stepped out...after all, I had designed and created this prison so escape was not that difficult. But eventually, I would find myself retreating back to the security of my own prison.

This week I headed back to prison. I was full of self-doubt, struggling with my worth and afraid of what others would think of me. Thank God, my husband and a few friends blocked the cell door and refused to let me enter. They encouraged me, pushed me, pulled me, and stood by me...especially God.  On the day of my great challenge I grabbed my bible and prayed - God, give me a word for this moment. And I opened my bible and it fell to Psalm 107..."for he shatters the doors of bronze, and cuts in two the bars of iron."

In that moment I realize where I have made my error all these years of trying to break out of my prison! I was trying to break out of my prison...I...I had been trying to do it on my own. The Psalm reminds me that it is God who liberates me, who makes me free, who gives me my sense of worth, my courage, and my security.  I don't have to claw and dig my own way out - God is there to break me out, if I will just give everything over to him and let him take charge.

Whatever prison you have built - a prison of grief, suffering, hurt, insecurity - God is ready to break you free.  Psalm 107 says to those who are wandering in the desert, lost and lonely, hungry and thirsty - God will free you and fill you with all goodness. For those in the darkness and misery of chains - God will free you. For those who are sick and need healing - God will deliver you. For those who have fear and distress - God has a calming and safe refuge for you.  "He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water...he raises up the needy out of distress...let those who are wise give heed to these things, and consider the steadfast love of the Lord."

Consider the steadfast love of the Lord. In His love we find our worth, our security, our purpose. And it is in His love that we will draw our first real breaths of the fresh air of freedom.

Consider the steadfast love of the Lord for yourself.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

To Meekly Go Where Only the Bold Dare to Tread

"But the meek shall inherit the land, and delight themselves in abundant prosperity." 
 Psalm 37:11

"When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness."         Acts 4:31

The bible, it seems, is full of contradictions at minute calling for faithful followers to be meek and then later proclaiming that God's presence upon His followers evokes boldness.  So which is it? Are we to be meek or bold?  The answer is "YES"

We tend to be a people of extremes, going through scripture and picking out the things that resonate most with us - either because they are easy for us to do or easy for us to stand against. Therefore, there is a tendency to read scripture with blinders on...only seeing the portions we wish to see.

In ministry I find myself running around putting out fires that I didn't start, watching others walk away to leave me standing in the smoldering ruins of a dream destroyed, praying I have enough resources to rebuild.  It occurs to me that most of those fires are caused when church leaders read scriptures with one eye closed...missing out on important guidelines of our faith.  For example, there are some leaders who proceed with much boldness, which, according to Acts, is a great thing to have.  And yet, they become more like a steamroller or a wrecking ball - moving so boldly that anyone in their way is knocked aside or  trampled.  There are other leaders who proceed with an attitude of meekness, much like the Psalm calls for. And yet, they move so timidly that they must be taken by the hand and led every step by someone else.  They don't dare to move on their own and so others get frustrated when progress is slow or so much assistance is needed to get the job done.

Does the Bible contradict itself? No, in this instance I do not believe it does. I believe the lesson of that Scripture brings to us is that we are called to be well-rounded individuals who are not extremists, but instead, are balanced and strive to be the best of every-thing we can be.  

What the church needs is more meek folk who will walk boldly and more bold folk who will walk meekly! If we could only accomplish that I believe most of our internal bickering and snipping would come to an end.  It really is simple...think about someone other than yourself and serve the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.  Hmmm, haven't we heard that somewhere before?

Imagine with me a church full of people who meekly go where only the bold dare to tread...a church where, with gentleness, kindness and compassion, folks walk boldly into the land proclaiming Christ to the lost.  Just imagine...