Today’s devotional thought:
Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Before walking out of jail a free man in February, Albert Woodfox spent 43 years almost without pause in an isolation cell, becoming the longest standing solitary confinement prisoner in America. He had no view of the sky from inside his 6 foot by 9 foot concrete box, no human contact, and taking a walk meant pacing from one end of the cell to the other and back again.
Then in April 2016 he found himself on a beach in Galveston, Texas, in the company of a friend. He stood marveling at all the beachgoers under a cloudless sky, and stared out over the Gulf of Mexico as it stretched far out to the horizon. "You could hear the tide and the water coming in," he says. "It was so strange, walking on the beach and all these people and kids running around."
Of all the terrifying details of Woodfox's four decades of solitary incarceration … perhaps the most chilling aspect of all is what he says now. Two months after the state of Louisiana set him free on his 69th birthday, he says he sometimes wishes he was back in that cell.
"Oh yeah! Yeah!" he says passionately when asked whether he sometimes misses his life in lockdown. "You know, human beings … feel more comfortable in areas they are secure. In a cell you have a routine, you pretty much know what is going to happen, when it's going to happen, but in society it's difficult, it's looser. So there are moments when, yeah, I wish I was back in the security of a cell." He pauses, then adds: "I mean, it does that to you." [Ed Pilkington, "43 years in solitary: There are moments I wish I was back there," The Guardian (4-29-16)]
They don’t tell you that when you come to Christ, when you die to self and are raised to walk in newness of life, the dead you reaches back from the grave. That self, the old you, is like a jail cell. You were a slave to sin. It had mastery over you--confining you, hemming you in, directing your choices and path--but when you became a follower of Jesus he says, “You are free!” And it can be like standing before a vast vista and marveling at the vision before you. Where once you were blind now you see. Not only is the view majestic, sweeping and surreal, it is also a bit frightening. Freedom can be disorienting, perhaps a little scary. And the familiarity and comfort of the cell will call your name. This is has been the reality since Peter preached at Pentecost and started the church of Jesus.
Did you think you were the only one who struggled overcoming some secret sin? That those Christians that seem to have it all together are some how above you, better than you and you could never achieve their level of spiritual success? The truth of sin is that the ground at the foot of the cross is level. We all must stand there as sinners. Therefore, we all will hear a call to return to the cell of our old selves. Paul’s advice? “Hang in there. Don’t give in. Don’t give up. Stand firm.” You will never be sinless but you will sin less. Christianity is a journey and any journey can only be judged after some ground has been covered. One day you will look back and marvel. One day you will look at yourself and the person you were before Christ will be the stranger. Stand firm!
Prayer: Our Holy Father, help us to stand firm, help us to remember the horrors of our sin. You are holy. Help us to be more like You today than we were yesterday. Help us to give you glory by the choices we make, the words we use and the lives we live. May You receive all the glory You are due. In Jesus name, amen.