I actually don’t feel like prison is defining me today but I can feel it coming.
So I am excited about letting the Word of God delivered by prisoner Paul bring fresh perspective to what I am called to: this very ordinary / extra ordinary life.
I have just had holidays and the routine has been relaxed and the days have drawn out slow an unencumbered by routine, ministry demands and work and meetings. I feel it coming although not in a dreadful way but this sense of being shackled to the outside. I find myself back pedalling away from next week and the sense that the year must begin again. The rhythm of our family has to shift and I have to help shift it but sometimes the rhythm can feel likes stocks on my feet and my view feels like bars of steel. Don’t get me wrong. I do appreciate my life but I know the feeling of being caught in the rut of normal and only seeing bars. What if God wants me to take another look. What if these shackles I feel and the bars I so often see have purpose. I may not be in a physical prison but there is a plan and strategy in play, a plan to bind me, shackle me and imprison me. There is a war being waged over my soul that may not be physical but it is definitely real.
I have felt the shackles and seen these prison walls before. As I read through this book from Paul I hear a yearning in his heart to be free from the prison he is in too but I feel the God speaking to me using Paul .. the tug of something deeper that must shift in me before I process those external things. It’s like he understands how to be free from prison when prison is still a reality. Paul has experienced freedom. This book shows me how to recognise the shackles and bars that don’t belong on my life and how to be free… his heart is free and that is what I long for.
Paul is writing to this church in Philippi from PRISON but the stand out today was the feeling I get when reading it. How does Paul do it. It just doesn’t sound like prisoner talk or a letter just any prisoner would write home. You don’t feel frustration of biding time, waiting to get out, you don’t hear any morbid ‘When does this end? ‘ ‘ When will I move from here?’ When will I get out? I can’t wait until… But Paul is not caught up with poor me and when…… He talks about his prison. He talks about his trial coming up. He even talks about the possibility of a death sentence. He doesn’t deny his prison but I don’t feel and hear ‘prison’ . I feel and hear love, joy, gratitude, warmth, care, concern…He doesn’t deny his prison but he uses it to see differently. He is not writing to ask the Philippians to help him bust out but to help them see their own circumstances differently. There are some around the world who would take great encouragement from this letter because they too are in a prison…for the same reasons. That is not my situation.
There is something about circumstances that can feel like prison and for many if us it is excruciatingly binding.
When others read my life and listen to my heart do they only see the prison I am currently struggling with. paul yearned for freedom or at least a verdict. How does Paul use prison to display freedom? how does he do it? if paul can .. maybe he can teach me… maybe he can teach me how to bust out if prison or how to experience freedom in my situation… There is something more to see than prison bars…
Paul shows me how to be in a situation that is a result if obedience and loving Jesus that is hard yet not see it that way. Do I speak and share in such a way that others ‘hear’ in spite of my current ‘Situation’. Paul is so good at this… His ability to present themes like joy, gratitude, unity, grace? peace, holiness, purity, service, suffering, death, life, humility, contentment, provision, hope, faith…yet from a place that his call had sent him.. Prison….
How do I ensure that my situation and my current ‘prison’ is not how people define me. When my love for Jesus positions me behind bars does my love for Jesus carry me or confuse me?
Soul…as you head into the rhythm of 2014 and leave the summer holidays and memories of 2013 behind.. How will the enemy use my day to day to imprison me and confine me? What has the potential in my life this year to make me ‘feel’ the bars and confinement.
It was in Philippi that Paul busted out of prison. He is going to teach me this year how to recognise the prisons that I can bust out of. Are their shackles I have grown used to that need to be busted off. there are people in my life who need my story of prison break to impact their life. what have been my ‘prisons’…the stuff that I have allowed to define me or perhaps let others see instead of Jesus / grace / peace/ joy/…What bars and shackles have people seen and heard but unlike Paul they have not been encouraged, inspired and nurtured? Do my kids get to see the frustration of my current prison or the ugliness of it? Soul…go mull on these questions. Thank you Paul for helping me see what has the power to enslave me but leave me empty but also what has the power to enslave me yet set me free….