Wednesday, April 2, 2014

when freedom brings fear

The heavy iron gates clanged shut behind him, separating him from the prison that had been his home for years.  The suit he wore gave him a distinguished look more befitting of him now that he was no longer a convicted felon.  Despite being an old man he looked clean and fresh but his eyes told another story.  He gripped the seat on the bus with white knuckles…even the muscles in his face were unable to soften.  And as we watch Brooks Hatlen's painful transition back into the world his words are a haunting reminder of the effect years of imprisonment can have on a person...

Dear Fellas – 
I can’t believe how fast things move on the outside...  
The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry...  
I wake up scared  and sometimes it takes me a while to remember where I am...
Maybe I should get me a gun and rob the Foodway so they would send me home...  
I’m tired of being afraid all the time...  
I've decided not to stay.

It was voted one of the most heartbreaking movie moments.  My own heart feels like it's disintegrating into small thin pieces just thinking about it.

In the end all that was left behind was a simple sentence carved into the doorframe – 
    Brooks was here.  
The only evidence that he was.

Our prisons take on many forms - a toxic relationship, a dead end job, an unhealthy habit we just can't shake, a lie that has been replayed so many times in our head that it begins to sound like truth...

But then some opportunity,
some realization,
some experience
comes along and sets us free.
And its Jesus - our freedom fighter - behind every liberation.
Suddenly the shame or guilt or fear or anger or bitterness that had us locked up for so long is exposed and the gates open up to let us go...
to let us be.

It sounds like a perfectly wonderful experience...this journey toward freedom...but not always...

Those first steps out of the dark, dank, familiar air of our prison can be hard to take...can feel like we are walking to the edge of a cliff
where the air is so crisp and new that it startles our lungs
and the light is so gleaming and bright that we have to squint our eyes.

Sometimes it seems easier to just turn back toward the prison where we know what to expect, rather than step into the big wide world to see if we might have hidden wings that can lift us up into flight and land us in a place where our lives will actually matter.

Sometimes you spend so much of your life in prison that it begins to feel like home.  
Sometimes freedom generates more fear than being confined behind bars.

Sometimes just when we find ourselves in 
a place of freedom...
place of opportunity...
a place of vulnerability...
we decide not to stay.
And all the ways that our life could have been used in the middle of this fast-paced, scary world are lost.

I wonder how things might have gone differently if Brooks had a friend on the other side of that gate...if he'd had another warm hand to grab hold of his and say 'it's scary but you're not alone'.

Recently Jesus has lovingly set me free from some of my own prisons.
I am deeply grateful, but if I'm honest...
sometimes I am deeply scared.

I can't go back to hiding in those dark corners.  He keeps bathing me in light.

Over and over again it's been all I can do to reach out my trembling hand to grab onto the strong and steady grasp of friends who tell me in a million different ways - I know it's scary, but you're not alone.

In some small way today I hope these words I offer will grab hold of you and help you move through the fear and into the freedom.
I know it can be scary - but you're not alone.
I know living in the light in a world full of dark can leave you feeling like a foreigner - but you're getting closer to home than you realize.
When freedom brings fear,
grab a hand
hold on tight
and just keep walking towards the light.

Oh...and don't forget...
when the legs beneath you regain their strength and your stride becomes steady...
make sure you turn around and grab the hand of the fragile freedom fighter behind you.
When you take hold of your own freedom, it's time to take hold of someone else.

{Calling all freedom fighters!  
Tomorrow we will begin posting our #firstfridayfinds for this month...
I hope you'll join us!}