About 40 years ago an image came to my mind: It was an emaciated man in a jail cell. His hands were grasping the bars and his forehead was pressed against them. He had a desperate look in his eyes. Then I noticed that the cell door was standing open, but he was facing the bars and couldn’t see the open door.
Two nights ago, I watched a beautiful, animated version of John Bunyan’s “Pilgram’s Progress” (written while he was in prison for his faith in Jesus for 12 years, from 1660-1672). The “interpreter” showed Christian Pilgram a vision of a desperate man in a jail cell who was looking through the bars but couldn’t see that the cell door was open. The very vision that I saw about 40 years ago. At the end of his journey, Christian Pilgram suddenly realized that the man he saw in the jail cell was himself.
This morning, on Valentine’s Day 2022, I just read a blog post and saw this: “Jesus comes right into the cell of our inmost self, the place where we are hopelessly locked up and so utterly deceived, we have made ourselves at home there–surviving in slavery, mistaking shackles for bracelets, mirrors for windows, and our small stories for the (God’s) Big Story. And He whispers to some and shouts to others, ‘Follow me! The door is open!'” Wow!!! What is God up to?
I was asking: “How is it possible that as an avid reader of the writings of Christ-followers who have lived during the past 2,000 years that I’ve never read or heard anything like my 40-year-old vision before, until now?” Then these words came to me. “This is a Valentine’s Day card from Me to you. It’s for such a time as this.”
“The door is open. Rejoice like Paul and Silas. Leave the cell of self and self-imposed despair and take many other prisoners with you. They will follow as you follow Me in glorious liberty! There’s no need for you to look back. Simply bask in My Presence and soak up all the awe you can! Whosoever will, let him come.”
People who focus on the inner misery they’re feeling don’t see the wide-open door that leads to joy.
Isaiah 6 was just brought to my mind:
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
I told my wife all this about a half hour ago. She just rushed into the room and exclaimed: I was getting dressed and halfway listening to David Jeremiah on the radio. I just heard him say: “John Bunyan picked up the Bible and said: ‘This book will either keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.'” Another wow!!!
I just now searched WordPress for their free images under “jail cell.” This is the very first image that came up. Look at it!
Stop looking at the bars that are around you. Instead look to the Light and you will see God’s open door. Then leave your cell behind and begin to experience the beautiful freedom of daily following and obeying the risen Jesus!
After posting this, my wife and I went to lunch for Valentine’s Day, and I had another very unusual experience. While we were eating, a man I’ve never seen before came up to me and asked, “Are you a professor?” I said no and we got into a conversation. Somehow, within a couple of minutes we discovered that we were both born on the same day in the same year.
When you gawk
At your hurt,
You get stuck
In its dirt
And won’t walk
Away from it.