Thursday, February 10, 2011

Those in Prison

     Arden and I are reading  Little Pilgrim's Progress.  He listens to long stretches of the story, captivated, begging for more.  I call him Little Pilgrim when I make his breakfast, and he smiles, appreciating the comparison.  Today Christian and Hopeful are captured by the Giant Despair,
"He drove them before him across the fields to his house, which was called Doubting Castle, and put them into a dark dungeon, locking the door behind him.  All day and all night they lay upon the bare ground, without either food or water, and not even able to see each other.  Hopeful crept close to Christian, and they clung together, wondering whether the Giant would soon come and put them to death." (p. 109)
     I think of prisoners, far away, in a foreign prisons, alone and in darkness.  I think of prisoners in Iran's Evin Prison.  I think of names unfamiliar to my English tongue, Rasool Abdolahi, Leila Akhavan, Mojtaba Keshavarz, and twenty three others.  Many hundreds of others throughout the world in prison for the sake of Jesus Christ.
     My service to Christ involves scrubbing the toilets and shepherding little hearts.  My service involves inviting the lonely to my table.  My service involves sharing small parts of abundance.  My service to Christ involves quiet prayers of thanks and submission.  My service seems an easy path.
     Their service involves secrecy and loneliness.  Their service calls for courage and calls forth fears.  Their service involves physical pain and cold and real darkness.  The giant of despair may stalk their cells.
       I wonder if maybe, as per Neil Postman, my problem is just knowing too much of far away suffering, a kind of suffering I have no power to alleviate.  Using resources a sovereign God has given, we know more than any other people in history has ever known.  At the same time in the 20th century, one in which we thought we knew too much, 45 million Christians, or two thirds of all the martyrs in history, died for their faith.  These two are simultaneous and it is not an accident.  Somehow God orchestrates this world today, and I can't begin to understand the why and how of world history.  In Hebrews 13:3 I am commanded to
Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill treated, since you yourselves are also in the body.
      After lunch I stand in the yard and listen to the quiet.  The myriad drops from the icicles falling in a steady rhythm.  The cardinal's brazen red against the dark boughs, and the robin's flight across the blue beyond.  I stand and think of those in chains.  I come in to children playing games on a sunny floor and the tea kettle's warm, and wonder how I can remember prisoners as though I am in prison with them.
     As Christian and Hopeful attempt to escape the Giant's castle, with the key the all-wise God provided beforehand, the last lock is too stiff.  Though little Christian pressed hard against it, the key would not turn.  Despair may press in hard at any moment.  Though Hopeful urges him to hurry, Christian cannot open that gate, not until Hopeful also puts his hand upon Christian's and with two, they turn the key.
     If I could I would lay my own hand, warm and full of life, on that of one who suffers for Love.  I would offer the sunny corner of the couch and bring the sufferer tea.  I would listen long and quietly, because I have no doubt that this one knows something of Christ that I do not.  But I cannot.  I can not.  Feeling helpless I can only, only, pray that in a solitary cell, in far away Evin prison, Christ Himself would lay His hand over the sufferer's and help that one to fight the Giant of Despair.

No comments:

Post a Comment