Christianity claims we are made new through a re-birth, we are new creations with new hearts, and the walls that imprisoned us have been bulldozed. And yet . . . we still fear our bosses, speak ill about friends, and obsess about ourselves. Why haven’t we changed all that much?
Years ago I read an article written by a counselor who worked with concentration camp victims shortly after World War II. The sheer breadth of the war’s destruction restricted the Allies’ ability to help feed and shelter people, so refugee camps were built for the victims.
The counselor noted that many of the victims in the refugee camps acted as though they were still in concentration camps. Even though they had been freed, they still asked permission for the smallest liberties, such as a nighttime stroll outside their dormitories. The therapist made this observation:
We took the victims out of the camps in an instant, but it may take decades before the camps are taken out of the victims.
We are those prisoners.
Our Inner Prison
Part of the inner prison is our fear of admitting how badly we behave. We still dominate discussions, or scratch and claw for recognition, or succumb to that enticing temptation for the seventeenth time this week, or just whine, “Poor, poor, me.”
And when someone dares to corrects us, we bristle like a porcupine and defend ourselves with bazookas. We say, “I’m a good person,” or ,“I have a good heart,” or we secretly think, “At least I’m not as bad as you.” But our self-pep talk doesn’t last long, and pretty soon we obsess again about how insensitive our spouse is to our needs.
The concentration camp counselor experienced the same problem with the concentration camp victims. The victim’s lives really had changed externally—they were literally free—yet the former prisoners continued to submit to the therapists as though they were prison guards.
Not much had really changed in their lives.
And then . . .
One day a maimed Allied soldier visited the refugee camp to find a long-lost cousin. When the former victim saw his soldier-cousin’s debilitating wounds, something inside just broke. He whispered, “You suffered for me? You sacrificed your body to set me free?”
The therapist noticed an instant change in the former prisoner: he stood taller, he acted less subservient, he took more initiative, and he smiled more.
The therapist invited other grievously wounded soldiers to share their own stories of hard-fought battles, and she took busloads of former prisoners to Allied gravesites. Bit by bit, victim by victim, other former prisoners smiled more.
They even ignored some of the therapist’s suggestion. To Her Delight.
So what does this have to do with us?
Sometimes all we need is a gentle reminder of the truth: God really does love us and has our best interests at heart. But usually we need more than a reminder, we need the truth to penetrate, to become real.
Self-talk will never create true freedom. Our only cure is a visit to the gravesite and a gazing on the wounds of The Soldier who set us free. To become free, we actually need to be captured by someone else. Unless (and until) we are captured by his love, we will never be free.
John Donne wrote a sonnet that answers our need for inner freedom. He ends it with,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
The best freedom in life come from hearing God. I encourage you to read Hearing God in Conversation — I put into it all I’ve learned from years of studying how to recognize his voice in our lives.
You can order a copy by clicking on the link or on the image. Topics include:
- Learning to recognize the sound of God’s voice
- Hearing God in his silence
- How to Brainstorm with God
- Hearing God in Scripture
- Hearing God for guidance
Gary Wilkerson (pastor, author, and son of David Wilkerson) said this:
A key longing in every human heart is to connect with God, to actually hear his voice. Sam Williamson has written a remarkable book that teaches both how to hear God’s voice in Scripture, and then to hear his voice in every avenue of life. It’s filled with humor, insight, practical tips, and sound theology. I can’t recommend a better guide than Hearing God in Conversation.