This week we start off with a couple of disclaimers. Not the strongest of starts, I know, but it needs to be done. First, I have been told, on occasion…that I don’t always think “normal”…probably correct, but then do any of us really think normal all the time? Anyway, this is one of those times I might be accused of taking a 90-degree turn in my thinking. Which brings me to my second disclaimer. I fully admit that the scripture I’m about to reference doesn’t address where we’ll be headed with this blog. However, it is the passage that triggered the path I’m about to go down. Disclaimers done…
So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” (Acts 12:5-8 ESV)
I like the part where Peter had to be smacked by the angel, seems he was sleeping pretty soundly for someone facing execution…I want to exemplify that faith.
But, that’s not where I wanted to head. I hit this passage this week in my study of the life of Peter. It reminded me of several things I’ve heard and read about our shackles falling off…and how sometimes we still don’t move. Speaking of moving, I haven’t moved much…from that thought.
Why do we try to put the shackles back on? Why do we prefer the prison cell (we’re not sure Peter was in a cell…in fact he probably wasn’t…but that’s not really important at the moment)?
The answer, it would seem, brings us back to the topic I’ve been posting about the last few weeks…pride. We have to add a few more “selfs-” to our list from a couple of weeks ago.
Self-centered (okay that’s a repeat)
We seem to enjoy the comfort of limitations. If we’re shackled, we have a reason we can’t reach out…a reason we can’t go to…a reason just to sit where we’re comfortable. If you read up on perfectionists, you’ll find an issue with most of them is in their struggle with failure, they get to a point they won’t do something – if you never start, then you’ll never fail. (Self-image, Self-preservation) In some perfectionist students, if they hit a class that causes them to doubt their ability to get an A…they will blow off the course – not study, not try…and get a low grade. This way they can dismiss their “failure” as a lack of trying or interest…something they can hide behind. That is just one example of not trying, or not starting…to be safe in failure. Not really imperfect, if you don’t give an effort.
We all seem to have a bit of that in us…the shackles give us the excuse we can hide behind by not living the life we’re called to live. A reason we fail in trusting God in our day to day lives. We harbor and coddle our sin…and talk about how our lack of self-control hinders us, our inability to be strong (flesh is weak…a quick verse we pull out to defend our actions/inactions).
We find comfort in the boundaries of the prison cell walls. We freak out at freedom. We want those walls in place…they replace our responsibilities, they give us the “rules” to live by, they shape us and we’re okay with that…because to walk outside of the cell is scary. We have to put actions to the faith we claim to have, we have to show trust in Him. Something we say we do…but then we find solace in the shackles and the walls.
Our walls often start off from a source of trying to help us live the abundant and obedient life…but they, so frequently, become the checklist we rely on. Read scripture – four chapters a day, pray – twenty minutes a day, give – ten percent, show up to church on Sunday morning…and the list goes on.
To shift a tad…our preference for the prison cell is much like the prodigal son. Except we need to rewrite the ending.
When the young man was coming up the path, he saw his father running down to him. “Why is he running,” the young man wondered. “Is he going to beat me? Is he going to berate me? I’ve failed him, so this can’t be good.” The young man sighed and turned, running back the way he came…back to the pigs. “They won’t ask anything of me, they won’t berate me. ” The young man never returned home.
What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” (2 Peter 2:22 ESV)
A lack of trust…which is another way of saying “pride.” We operate from a place of self-power…we do ourselves what God wants us to rely on Him for. But He doesn’t do what we want, the answers aren’t what we want, it doesn’t make sense…it’s hard. And so we go back to the cell, where we know the walls…we have the shackles to help us rationalize.
When we live by the checklist…the walls of our cells…we wither, even if we do “good” things…God tells us if we’re not abiding we can accomplish nothing. Abiding requires us to walk out of the cell…to trust in Him.
The great thing, no matter how many times or how long we’ve stayed in our cell…our Father is there ready to run to us…to welcome us back. To help us live a life under His grace…a life where the Truth has set us free.