Tag Archives: freedom

150. Captive (Aesthetics 9)

dad and peacock butterfly

Another time I encountered beauty unexpectedly was when my Dad found a peacock butterfly trapped in his old summer house. Not only was the butterfly extremely lovely to look at, despite, or even because of its wounds, but so was the care and gentleness with which my Dad’s hands lovingly and patiently released it.

As if this were not enough, I also got to have the exhausted insect lick sugar water off my finger – that was an amazing sensation, I can tell you! And then after my parents and I had watched it get its strength back and fly away, there was the added beauty of the symbolism of the whole episode. The freeing of a captive, tired from beating her wings against unyielding glass, the rescue by a gentle father, the feeding and setting on her way, albeit with scars. Beauty released that day, undeniably.

text and photo © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

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Veil of Tears 103: Incarcerated

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So he took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held, and there he remained.” Genesis 39:20 NLT

Today is Nelson Mandela Day (18th July). Whenever I read about people like Joseph who were imprisoned on false charges or unfair accusations or lies, or even those who have committed small crimes but been given horrendous sentences, I think of those 27 years of imprisonment that Mr Mandela underwent. He must have, like Joseph, and like Jeremiah in his cistern, have wondered if he would die there, the hope of release must have seemed forlorn and unlikely.

Others of us are imprisoned in different ways of course, in abusive relationships, tough marriages or in bodies that make us feel less than human. Many of my friends with severe M.E. are living in a world of one room, weak as they are, unable to feed or wash themselves, let alone get outside. I see my wheelchair as an enabling thing, but then, I am not confined to it all day like so many people, who perhaps feel imprisoned.

Still others of course, feel imprisoned by debt, by circumstances, by their pasts, or even by guilt and regret. There are so many things that can make us feel that desire for liberation from the chains that hold us back. And many of my fellow Christians will proclaim that by Jesus’ blood we are free, we are saved from all these bondages. And that is undoubtedly true in a whole heap of ways. But knowing that is not always tantamount to securing the tangible reality of it. And some of us are kept in our small or difficult circumstances, indeed in our real prisons or penitentiaries, for a very long time, long after we have come to faith. This is not because the power of God is not working in our lives, but because it is working unseen. Invisible miracles happen in prisons of various kinds every minute of every day.

Rays of sunshine can penetrate the heart wherever we are. Hope can live in the most arid and desperate conditions, and faith can flourish in small and impoverished circumstances. There is fruit still there to be borne. How many times do we hear of prisoners finding Jesus whilst behind bars? And how can we deny that miracles happened in that small cell on Robyn Island, where a peaceful, gentle and wise humility was created from a passionate rebel heart? If we give our yes to love, to God, then powerful transformations can occur in these cells of isolation. The desert fathers and mothers understood this well, self-imposing constrictions, as monks and nuns continue to do today.

Indeed, as citizens of heaven we might well say that our very bodies and our present circumstances are our cells, fidelity to which, as Abba Moses counselled, was the way to spiritual knowledge. “Go, sit in your cell,” he would say, “And your cell will teach you everything.”

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

55: Out of Control

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Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies.” Exodus 32:25

 

People without boundaries is generally not a pretty sight. The Israelites were in dire need of some rules, and Moses was about to give them just that. No wonder, when he saw what fools they were making of themselves, that he gave them quite so many! The ten commandments were just the beginning, and these straight from the Lord.

We tend to look at the rules as constricting things that limit our freedom, but God knows that too much freedom is a dangerous thing. If we do as please we generally end up like chickens loose on a motorway, running wild and causing mayhem. Similar to small children who push all the limits just to see how far they can go, to discover where the edges of acceptability are, we start out on our spiritual journey trying out the freedom that we imagine we have. But as Paul so wisely says, everything is permissible to me, but not everything is good for me (1 Corinthians 6:12). Rules are generally there for our good, and God’s rules created for that very purpose.

We moan endlessly today about the strenuous health and safety regulations we have to negotiate to get things done, but we forget that many people died or suffered terrible accidents before we had these laws to protect us. In the same way, people say they don’t want to suffer the restrictions of living out the discipline of a religious life. “We won’t have any fun!” is their very real concern. It is not until we know and understand that God is our loving parent, wanting us to come to no harm, that we start to see that the rules are there for our own benefit.

For when we do get out of control, it is rather like getting drunk – it’s stupid as well as dangerous. We can become a mockery. Our sex lives, which the mosaic law is so incredibly fussy about, are a good example. Out of control, giving in to every whim and fancy, means that we are prone to disease, heartbreak, a lack of emotional stability, and come to an overreliance on looks and pleasure that make us open to attack, coercion and abuse. If we live promiscuously we also miss out on the rewards of a monogamous, trusting and loving relationship that stays exclusive. Marriage is often hard work, but it bears great fruit, and a lasting love is something we all want and which does us tremendous good. The Lord knows this, because he made us that way, and he understand far better than we do the kind of harm that frivolous living and selfish ways do to us.

Left to our own devices we do laughable things. We do what we have specifically been told not to. Like teenagers left alone in the house for the first time, the Israelites perhaps do the inevitable equivalent of raiding the drinks cabinet, making a golden idol to worship. It’s foolish, it makes them a laughing stock, and Moses, like the weary parent arriving home, is furious, smashing God’s commandments. But rather than grounding, the day ends in a great amount of killing, for the Levites are commanded to punish the people by the sword and over three thousand are killed. This being out of control is clearly no laughing matter.

Thankfully, in Christ, every time we find ourselves out of control, we can turn back to the Lord and start over. Thank God that his mercies are indeed fresh every morning. We may never, in this lifetime, reach a point where we stop making stupid mistakes, nor can we always refrain from breaking the rules; but we can, by prayer and discipline, create good habits and begin to learn to walk in the Lord’s ways, trusting that he truly does know best.

We find perhaps, in the end, that our greatest freedoms are found within obedience, that the sheepfold is fenced for a reason and is the safest place for our Good Shepherd to guard us from wolves, and the best starting place for herding us in the right direction.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com

8: The Bitter Taste of Freedom

 

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“After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”

John 13:21 NIV

One of the things we talk about when we think about Judas Iscariot’s role in the Jesus story, is whether he had any choice in the matter. If, as the next few verses in John tell us, Satan entered Judas when he took the bread Jesus offered him, and if Jesus already knew he was the one who would betray him, then surely he was just fated to be the bad guy. This kind of conclusion does not bode well for us. Are we just pawns in some cosmic chess game? Is free will really free?

These are valid questions, but I think we find the answers in the scripture. If your heart was for Jesus, and he said, the one who will betray me is the one I give this bread to, would you be leaning forward to take it? No, of course not. You’d probably be sitting on your hands. Judas freely took up the role he was offered, as Jesus knew he would. He was not tempting him, but just handing him the opportunity he’d been looking for.

In some ways, Jesus was being hugely compassionate. He was letting Judas know that he knew his heart, that the decision had already been made. He was also, in a deeply symbolic gesture, giving Judas a picture of what he was about to do. Before giving Judas the bread, he dipped it, and this being the Passover meal, most likely in bitter herbs. The giving was almost a question. Are you really ready to drink of this cup of bitter suffering with me? If I give you this bitter task, will you take it? Or will you break the bread and drink the wine instead? As he accepted the bread, reached out and took it, that was when, according to John, “Satan entered into him.” (verse 26) Like Jesus, John speaks figuratively a great deal. This was the point then, when Judas made his choice, deciding with whom to stand, and letting the enemy into his heart.

The Lord already knows the answers we will give, and acts on that. He does not tempt us, only eases the pain we have chosen, whatever it may be. I think that bread was dipped and given with great sadness and compassion. Just as we might pre-empt someone’s pain at breaking up with us by letting them know we understand, Jesus made it easier, and told him to go and do what he had to do. For several long years, Judas had been the holder of the purse (the ministry treasurer if you like) and was pocketing money the whole time. Do we think Jesus didn’t know this? Yet he let Judas continue in the role. The Lord does not love us any less for our sins or our failings, and always deals with us in love and grace. If the example of Judas tells us anything about free will, it is that it is free indeed.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com

179: Castle

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Interior rooms await us once the drawbridge has been crossed with silver, and the battlements admired and passed under. And then the real journey begins, and we balk, and wonder why we came at all, or even started out. Because these are our secret places and our hidden armouries, and to open the heavy oaken doors and let the light of familiar divinity in, this is painful. Our lips crack in dry fear and our egos shriek as their ice shards fall in the thaw and crash into the moat, never to be seen again.

Yet. Deep in the smallest cellar, a trapdoor awaits the one who can navigate the spiral staircases of her own soul, and find the centre, leaving the grand ballrooms behind, chandeliers sparkling with anger, crystallised neglected debutantes. And shall she have the courage to lift the iron ring? And when she sees the sky beneath her and stands on the clear melted sand, will she realise that the fall is the Way, and take her life in her hands, letting the weight of her true self gather and build until it breaks the emergency looking glass and lets her pass through into the light?

© Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2016

Photo from morguefile.com

 

124: Hill

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The view was worth the climb perhaps, but that is not why you are here. For the purpose of reaching heights is to learn how to fall. Fall disgracefully then, Franciscan tumbling over your own free-flowing limbs, nursery rhyme rolling, shrieking with joy-fear, feeling the bumps and stones and collecting straw and goose grass orbs on your woollens and the memory of unfamiliar leafy aromas in your nostrils. Come to a full stop, breathless and delighted, bedecked in Gummidge-gear. Your straw woman cries, “Again, again!” as she heads, child-like, to run up the slope, neither the top nor the bottom able to hold her.

Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2015