Friday, April 22, 2011

Getting Un-Stuck

I wonder now if the choice was mine
The door was open I walked inside
Nobody had my arm twisted
Nobody made me stay
The face of freedom can show up small
A tiny crack in a prison wall
A song that rises up from silence
A voice that wants to say
No more chains...
~Nichole Nordeman, "No More Chains"
No animals were harmed in the writing of this blog entry.

While my husband was away recently, I had to take care of the baby chicks we had just received.  They needed to be fed several times a day, and on one of these occasions I found that the chicks had knocked the bottle out of their feeder.  The chicks are fed with a gravity feeder, which is a plastic bottle that screws into a feeding trough. I picked up the bottle and was shocked to feel a tiny little heart pounding away inside!  One of the chicks had found its way into the bottle, tempted by the remaining food that lay inside.

The bottle is similar to a Nalgene, or even a Mason jar.  There is a lip after the opening, so the chick could not just back out of the bottle.  He was stuck!  I called my mother (my parents have chickens, too) for help, and had her on speakerphone while I tried to extricate the poor bird.

I tried shaking the bottle upside down -- cruel as it sounds -- to no avail.  Every time I turned the bottle upside down the poor little chick was trying to climb farther up into the bottle.  He did not realize that in this instance, gravity was his friend.  Mom suggested that I try and reach for one of his feet, so after gently shaking him one more time, I was thrilled to see a little foot slip down, and I latched on (gently) with my finger and thumb.  I then tried to find his other foot.  In the effort, the chick managed to get the first foot back...and I cried out (with tremendous exasperation), "Why won't you let me free you?!?!"

"Do you think that maybe God feels like that sometimes?"  My mother, still on speakerphone, transformed this little part of daily life into a prophetic moment.  Wow. I let the gravity of that question really sink in for a minute, before continuing to free the bird.

Eventually, I was able to get hold of both of the chick's feet and slowly, cautiously pull him out of the bottle. It was not a comfortable experience for him, and -- once he was freed -- he did not even stop to show any gratitude. I set him down in the pen and he scurried across to the other side and was immediately lost in a sea of frightened chicks (we had 81 chicks at the time). Again I was struck by how often this rings true in my walk with God.

Sometimes we cannot see beyond a situation. All we know is that we are stuck, and being stuck is frightening. How do we know if we will ever be able to get out again? What will happen to us if we cannot get free? 

But then, just when we start to resign ourselves to our fate, something happens to jolt us, shaking us out of our comfort zone and into a frightening new place.  

When all we know are the walls around us, those walls can start to look pretty good.  I mean, at least we know what life looks like, here.  We know exactly how much (or how little, to be more accurate) is expected of us, and we know the boundaries. Freedom is...well...unknown. And the unknown is scary.

I imagine all that the little chick could think was, "Why are you trying to pull off my leg?  How can I save myself from you?"

We might say something like, "God, what did I do to deserve this situation? Why are you punishing me?  Why can't things go back to normal?" Sometimes the only alternative to where we are looks so scary, that we think the prison we are in is a palace. Sometimes we would rather be in a dark, rotting dungeon, than have our eyes blinded by sunlight.

When the Israelites were leaving Egypt -- a place where they were persecuted, horribly oppressed and abused -- the uncertainty of the road ahead had them all crying out, "At least we had food in Egypt! (Numbers 11)"  Really? You are telling me that you would rather be forced to kill your new born sons, be beaten all day long, and be forced into heavy labor, than traveling with your people to someplace new? It sounds so ridiculous to us, yet we make these decisions all the time. We complain about not knowing where God is bringing us, when we were stuck in a place of bitterness, of guilt, of pain, or of uselessness. We only want freedom if we recognize it as such right away. 

We only want freedom if we can gain it without growing. We only want freedom if it requires no faith.

When a "dangerous" new sect threatened the time-honored faith of a man named Saul, he railed against these "heretics" with a murderous vengeance.  When he was finally brought face to face with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, the Lord said to him, "Saul, is hard for you to kick against the goads (Acts 26:14)?" Another word for "goads" might be "restraints," but they were restraints designed to cut into an animals hooves should he decide he wanted to go a different way.  God was basically saying, "Dear one (using a name twice was an indication of affection), you are only hurting yourself.  Please try this my way." 

How many times have we all, like the chick in my story above, seen something that looked good.  We go after it, only to find ourselves ensnared.  We walked into it of our own free will, and here we are, crying out to God for deliverance.  Then, the walls start to shake. The floor falls out from underneath you. Suddenly, you do not even know which way is up anymore. "Never mind, God!  I will stay stuck in here if it at least means I know what is going on!"  Sound familiar?

Maybe it was, "OK, God, I would rather have a job where I am taken advantage of and unappreciated, than to be unemployed and actually have to depend on You. I know I prayed that you would get me out of this job, but I meant I wanted you to give me a new job FIRST!"

Or maybe it was any number of other situations where we feel like the sky is falling. It is true.  Too many times, I will opt for the security of a prison cell, if it means I will never have to wonder what the next step is, or where my next meal is coming from, or who will pay my bills.

But when we -- no matter what is going on around us, whether God caused it or He is simply using it for our good to His glory -- choose to trust Him, we feast on manna and quail, drink water from miraculous springs. Or like Paul (who was Saul), we heal the blind and lame, reach many for the Kingdom of Heaven, and find a new life beyond anything our old life could have promised. Is it all rosy? Absolutely not.  But it is liberty!

"Because sometimes the things we call freedom enslave us." (quote on a OneTruth T-Shirt entitled "Liberty")

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