At the start of 2010 I found myself at the beginning of a new adventure. After some months of deliberating we moved house from suburban Kenilworth in Warwickshire to the small town of Wigtown in south west Scotland. We felt privileged and well blessed coming to such a beautiful area where the views from the front of our house looked east across the bay to the Galloway hills.
My husband was keen to secure the garage and workshop as his space – a man cave – a place he could call his own, and so a small shed was erected at the top of the garden where I might have my own space, room to sow seeds , pot up plants and store my gardening tools. I was delighted to have this and spent many happy hours up there in the spring preparing seedlings for the flower and vegetable garden. My uncle had trained at Kew, my mother was in the land army during the war and my sister also had a career in horticulture, so I guess gardening runs through my veins.
Working in the garden one fine, breezy day I went to the shed to fetch a pair of secateurs; they were hanging on a nail on the shed wall. I opened the door and stepped inside, looked up and saw just what I was looking for. As I stretched up for them the breeze blew the door shut behind me and I found myself standing in deep gloom with just a tiny window shedding enough light to help me grope for the secateurs I needed. With them securely in my hand I reached for the door handle. Missed. I reached again. Missed again. I began to feel my way around the door area and within a few moments broke into a cold sweat as it dawned on me that there was no door handle! My clever husband had put a handle on the outside of the door, but not on the inside!. I was stuck, imprisoned, at the top of the garden where no-one would hear me, and I just hate being confined in small spaces!
I’m pleased to say I wasn’t there for long. With the help of the very tool I had picked up earlier I was able to grasp the rod where the missing handle should have been attached and, after several attempts, I managed to rotate it enough to activate the mechanism and the door opened. Phew! Never had I been more relieved to feel the air fresh on my face, and see the brightness of the sunlight.
Have you ever found yourself to be a prisoner? There are so many ways in which you might find yourself to be a captive. Perhaps, like me in the shed, you’ve been stuck in a place you didn’t want to be, or found yourself in circumstances which you would like to change but can’t. Maybe you’ve been in an abusive relationship and didn’t know how to end it; or lived under a corrupt government where your freedom of speech and movement were restricted, and your life threatened if you dared to stand against corruption. Physical and mental illness can leave people feeling imprisoned within their own bodies. Slavery is another type of imprisonment which has been a disgraceful and despicable use and misuse of human labour for centuries but accepted as the norm in many parts of the world.
It is true of course that, being human, we may make bad decisions in our own lives and are obliged to live with the consequences of those decisions, leaving us trapped and unhappy; a type of imprisonment brought upon ourselves. We have to accept responsibility for our actions and make the best of a situation which is not perhaps what we dreamed of. That’s not the same as being forced into captivity by another power, although it might just leave us feeling as though it were, and not knowing how to move on.
Currently, as the pandemic continues to take its toll, both close to home and far afield, I would suggest that we are all imprisoned to some degree, and each person handles that situation in a different way. Some are able to get out for daily exercise and appreciate the good things around them whilst others are shielding at home, perhaps depressed or fearful. Some praise the good work done by volunteers and carers, helping those in need, whilst others criticise those who have perhaps made a mistake by breaking a rule. Some reach out to others with caring calls and messages, while others turn in on themselves and think only of themselves. Staying positive somehow seems to lessen the impact of the restrictions we are all undergoing. With the administering of a vaccine now underway we at least have hope of things improving in the not too distant future.
Hope. This is something we all need to keep us feeling positive
Isaiah 40 ends by saying:
Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not grow faint.
What a lovely picture is conjured up in those words – renewed strength, freedom of movement, no more fainting or tiredness.
Matthew 12 also quotes Isaiah in verses 18 and 21 and speaking of Jesus says
Here is my servant whom I have chosen —
In his name the nations will put their hope.
God knows just how things are with us. He understands our frustrations more than any of our friends or family can. We can share our thoughts, fears and hopes with friends and family perhaps, but only God sees the complete picture. He alone has the keys to our personal prison, and can decide when we might be released from our sentence. It is however up to us to ask, and ask in the Lord’s name, for our freedom from whatever situation is holding us prisoner. We read in Acts 12:1-11 of Peter’s miraculous release from prison and that the whole church was praying for him. I wonder if we sometime underestimate the power of prayer.
I have chosen some of the words of Psalm 139 to round off my thoughts. They reassure us of God’s closeness to us. When we need help we only have to reach out to Him in prayer. He will answer.
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand —
when I awake, I am still with you.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.