Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
It can be very revealing to listen to your friends as they recount their widely varied experiences in relation to one central truth, such as, in this case the meaning of freedom. It was late afternoon when we were gathered in the Oak Street Bible Shop. Sue was telling of a trip to a chicken hatchery with her father.
“I was about six years old” she recalled, “My father was buying some young hens for us to raise. He liked chickens, he always told us. He said they had them when he was a boy. But he wanted to see if we could save a little money by raising our own. While he was talking to the man who ran the place, I walked around looking at baby chicks in their brooders, and cages of older birds right on up to adult size. Then I saw the most sad sight I think I have ever seen!”
You could see the memory still moved her, partly to sorrow, but also indignation. “I saw a big rooster in a cage meant for a much smaller bird.” She held up her arm with her wrist bent. “This is how he was, all bent over! He would walk around with his neck all bent and he could never hold his head up straight!”
My father was about to finish buying the hens and I ran to him and said “Look, Daddy!” He tried to tell me we didn’t need a rooster, but he could see how sad the poor rooster made me. Finally he gave in. When he asked how much for the rooster, the man kind of shrugged, “Fifty cents, I guess.” They put the hens in some kind of crate and the rooster in a cardboard box that was too small. They had to tuck his head in to close the lid.”
“I got to carry him out to the car, I remember. At home, after my Dad released the hens, he told me to open the box and let the rooster go. It takes them awhile to get used to a place, but before long, the rooster, he was a Leghorn, was standing as tall as he could, actually stretching to stand as high as he could. It made me so happy!”
Glen, touched by Sue’s story, sat in silence for a time, before he spoke. “If only it could work that way with people, Sue. You can show them in the Word of God, how Christ has set us free, and somehow they just can’t see it...”
From across the room, Joy interrupted, “What is it with you men! It seems like you think all you have to do is just read a few verses from the Bible and the problem is solved! Don’t you understand that these so-called hangups that people have are the results of years, sometimes a lifetime of agony. For years, hurts and lies beat people up and their pain isn’t going to go away just like that!”
“Guilty as charged, Joy,” said a chastened Glen. “Some of us have had the experience of reading or hearing the truth and feeling their burden just fall away, right then. But we have to understand it’s not that way for everybody and in every situation. For years after Jeanie died, I would wake up and think she was still next to me in bed. Sometimes I still do. I knew all the comforting places in the Bible, but all I could think was ‘Yes, but she’s still gone.’"
Joy answered him quietly, “I didn’t mean to jump on you, Glen. I guess I just envy people who can see the truth, and the logic of it just heals them right then and there. I know it usually does with you, and I think that’s true of you too Gary, right?”
Gary, a little startled by this change of direction, tried to divert the attention away from himself. "Did you ever hear of a recording called The Prison? It’s by Michael Nesmith, you know, from the Monkees?”
Seeing the uncomprehending looks of the others, he went on. “He invented the music video.. The Prison was the first one. In this case it was a set of songs accompanied by paintings. Look, I wasn’t into The Monkeys, or Mike Nesmith or anything like that. But the girl I was going with was. She lived in a college dorm and played his music all the time, she said she had all his stuff. To impress her I looked for some of his recordings and I found The Prison, a brand new release! I took it to her dorm and they paged her. I held it out to her as she was coming down the steps. She let out this piercing scream! People came running , they must have thought I was attacking her or something. She held up the album by way of explanation and they all went away, guess they were used to scenes like that.”
No one in the room had any idea what The Prison album had to do with the idea of freedom and it showed in their faces, so Gary continued. “The setting of this music was a prison in a remote rural landscape. Inmates walked along narrow halls, going through their daily routines without a change. But one day, one of the prisoners saw a little open place in a wall. When no one is looking, he got down and looked at it more closely. He found there was a hole clear through the wall and he can see a faraway hill. Every day he returns to look at the hole and, all on its own, it keeps getting bigger!
Finally, the hole is large enough that he can step right through it. So he did and then started running for the hill. When he got to the hill and looked back. What did he see? He saw there was no prison, no building at all! Just men, acting like he once did, walking along halls that didn’t even exist, stopping at doors that weren’t there. The prison is all in their minds!”
“I still remember some of he lyrics,
Of a million dreams...’
In this case, bad dreams.” Looking at Joy, he concluded. “I guess this illustrates the idea of finding freedom gradually, over a period of time?”
Joy, usually impassive, was clearly impressed. “You just never know where you’re going to hear the truth, do you?”
Glen came to life hearing this, “You know, the sad thing is, so many times when people are free, they will turn and go right back where they came from.”
“Maybe people do,” said Sue with emphasis, “but I absolutely know there isn’t any way my rooster would ever go back into that awful little cage! You know, I really mean this, but I think animals are a lot wiser than people are a lot of the time!”