"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing —
to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."


~C.S. Lewis




Thursday, September 15, 2011

Escaping the prison words

Gold-light water and sun-emblazoned sky. I have escaped the brick-and-stone prison and slipped by a cloak’s concealment out the rearmost door, a door few use—and so it is not yet tired.

It isn’t. But I am. I don’t want to think anymore. I am too tired. And I know this.

I found that out, last night, when I entered one of the kindest parts of my day, when I would rest for a moment just before I slept. In those precious minutes, I would recklessly allow my mind to do nothing—think nothing—decide nothing. I would scorn decisions, push aside worry, mocking them, saying, you can wait—you will wait—you have no power now. I would rest.

I need such rest now, and it serves to warn about how I am living. Always moving, always choosing, always striving—never a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light. Self-imposed restrictions, self-constricting chains, I stab myself with dagger-words:

Need. Should. Have. Must.

Prison words.

But I escape.

I escape because as soon as I let go of my hand-clutched hold on the locks, the chains fall free, crumpling in relief around my sandaled feet, gasping for breath once released from my strangling hold. Jesus does not say should and must and have and need. He says love and justice and holiness and grace. They are different; they are worlds apart. Both require endless action and whole-life dedication in even a single moment, but one consumes with guilt; the other consumes with glory. One is full of expectations; the other is full of freedom. In one, you have lists and measurements and anguished decisions, but, in the other, you see whole worlds open and a hundred paths of righteousness and truth.

Isn’t that beautiful?

I walk to the island, alone. I stay on the grass. It seems less harsh than the broken pavement. For a moment, my mind tells me, I should have some great revelation out here, on the island’s ancient wooden bridge, something that would change me.

Should. There it is again. I gag inside. I push those thoughts away, for I need learn nothing; I don’t have to do anything; I can just be. I can simply enjoy this glorious light and worship the heavenly Son. The rest from expectations and self-judgment that I seek just before sleep—and that I’ve let myself have now—that is my glory at all times, if I will take it.

“I do not judge myself”… “Only one thing is needed”… “The entire law is summed up in a single command”…

Maybe this is the meaning of shalom. Not just a peaceful life, but a restful life. A hard life, but not a draining life.

Things are so often simpler than I think.



I have been standing on the bridge for a long time now. I turn to go back, not having set foot on the island—not today, anyway. I have not quite escaped—not yet. I know I will pick up my chains again and a moment later throw them back down in disgust. It will take time. But, I am closer—I am on the bridge—and, someday, I will let Jesus rip those chains off my soul and burn them at the cross.

And then I will step freely onto my new island home, leaving the prison words behind.