Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 7, 2005
Escape prison by surrendering
Jesus' light guides us out of our darkness
My Glass is Half Full
By MARK PICKUP
In 1945, the Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn was sentenced to eight years in a Russian labour camp because of his criticism of the government. He chronicled his experiences in prison camps in a series of writings including a trilogy entitled Gulag Archipelago.
Solzhenitsyn described an illumination that came to him while languishing in prison. This illumination enabled him to begin comprehending the glorious, transforming liberty of the children of God, regardless of their physical circumstances.
The veil is removed
St. Paul referred to this liberty in 2 Corinthians. "But whenever a person turns to the Lord the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image of glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:16-18).
This was the spiritual liberty revealed to Solzhenitsyn despite his miserable, stinking prison cell. In any human context he possessed no liberty whatsoever! But out of Solzhenitsyn's wretched surroundings came salvation and joy. It was lying on the jail's rotting straw that he discovered union with Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. Into the inky darkness shone a great light.
My prison is my own body. For more than 20 years, incurable multiple sclerosis has slowly ravaged it. The prison gets smaller each year as my body slowly turns into a living carcass. Despite this ugly reality, I, too, have discovered a great light shining into my prison.
Prisons may have barred windows or be paralysis and wheelchairs. They can take the form of crippling fears and phobias, broken bodies or broken hearts, addictions or sin. The worst prisons, however, are not made of concrete, bars and locked metal doors: they are found in human hearts and minds.
The good news is that no matter what makes up a person's prison, the truth and liberation of Christ's light and truth can penetrate through their walls and darkness. Christ's truth can (and does) set people free, even today. He said:
"If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31-32). But what sort of freedom did Christ mean? Jesus expanded on this by speaking about freedom from the bondage of sin and condemnation. And for those of us who are acutely aware of our sins, this means everything. Like King David, our sins are always before us (Psalm 51:3.).
Jesus is truth
What is the truth? Jesus was speaking of truth that leads to salvation: In other words, Jesus is truth. I find it ironic that Pilate posed this very question as he was looking truth square in the face. What is the light? Jesus is the light of the world.
The light came into the world, but the world did not comprehend it. Still, the light of Christ shines despite drastic or dire earthly circumstances. The light and truth of Christ has both confounded and illuminated the hearts and minds of men and women living in the first to the 21st centuries.
How can people comprehend the light? I'm not sure human beings are capable of comprehending the light without utterly and completely surrendering themselves to the light - Jesus Christ. They must submit to the will of God - content to accept whatever that may be.
The words "surrender" and "submission" represent particularly repugnant concepts to a vain, spoilt and stiff-necked generation like the 'Boomers (I know: I'm part of that age group). Submission to anything is unthinkable to most of us. But the option is to stubbornly remain in soul darkness, stumbling or suffering without meaning. That ends in the greatest human poverty: spiritual despair.
But those who finally choose to surrender everything to Christ - usually after all other possible options have been exhausted - will eventually begin to detect the first rays of a great light pushing back their internal darkness.
It is only then that a striking irony becomes heart-rendingly apparent. It is only in real surrender that we find real liberty. Isn't it rich? Isn't it a hilarious irony that lies at the bottom of all existence? Freedom in surrender! Liberty in submission!
Like Mary of Bethany, all we need to do is sit quietly at the feet of Jesus, basking in the warmth of his light and willingly be taught the truth without the hindrances of our fears, self-interests or pride.
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