“You will go and leap like calves released from the stall.” – Malachi 4:2
While there are certain people who are justifiably incarcerated for committing criminal offenses, even those of us who are not criminals sometimes experience imprisonment in one form or another, though perhaps not physically locked up in a jail cell. Such imprisonments may be due to an abusive home environment, a job we hate, a bad boss, an unhappy marriage, financial burdens, or debilitating health issues – imprisonments that are unfair, unjustified, that are no fault of our own, simply misfortunes of life.
Sometimes, though, we become prisoners from our own doing, not criminal activities, simply burdens and mistakes we lay on ourselves. We’re like Otis, the town drunk in the quaint village of Mayberry on the Andy Griffith Show in which Andy Griffith played the role of Sheriff Andy Taylor along with Don Knotts who played Barney Fife his inept sidekick deputy. Occasionally Otis would appear in one of the episodes stumbling into the sheriff’s office in a drunken stupor where he would wobble over and lock himself up in the jail cell for the night. We do that too, don’t we, with our secret thoughts that may include regrets, insecurities, or bad thoughts or feelings toward someone? Those private thoughts can confine us in the hoosegow just like Otis, holding us back from moving forward and using our gifts and talents to the fullest. Otis, at least, would sleep it off and be set free the next day. For the rest of us breaking free is not so simple.
It is not simple because freedom and imprisonment are a great paradox. That is, what gives us real freedom, to the immature mind can look like imprisonment; while what to the immature mind appears to be freedom only leads to imprisonment. I recall as an adolescent myself sometimes fantasizing about what it would be like to have plenty of money with no cares or responsibilities. On the surface that looked like freedom at the time, until I began to realize that kind of freedom was only a pathway to the imprisonment of self-centeredness. Paradoxically, becoming responsible, dedicating oneself to purposes greater than oneself, which on the surface may look like imprisonment, is actually the pathway freedom – real freedom to utilize our gifts and talents to their fullest. It is when we discover those unique purposes that God has bestowed on us that we find true freedom. Then, “You will go and leap like calves released from the stall.” . . . . . . Free!