Just outside Granada, Nicaragua is a jail. And the first thing you see when you walk in is a cage crammed with as many as 90 prisoners. They live there exposed to the elements. They are doing what is known as “hard time.”
The cage is so claustrophobic, people barely have enough room to turn around. They live like animals. No beds, just cardboard to sleep on. Men everywhere, like a psychological experiment gone wrong. When it’s rainy and windy, everyone just gets wet.
A group of us went in and we talked to the inmates. I sat next to a young man named Gerard, a pro baseball player before he got locked up. But inside jail, paradoxically, he’d been set free. Freed by Christ from a life headed in the wrong direction. “When I get out, I want to tell young people about Jesus,” he said.
They let him out of the cage for a minute so he could continue to meet with us. And we saw that though Gerard may be locked up at present, his spirit is free.
Gerard is freer now than he ever was outside prison. One day, when Gerard walks out the gate and his body joins his spirit in a place of freedom, he knows he has a destiny.
His mind has been focused by the confinement in the way that the apostle Paul’s was when he wrote much of the New Testament while in prison. When Paul said, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received”*, he wasn’t speaking metaphorically.
Inventory What Has You Captive
In Man’s Search For Meaning
, Viktor Frankl describes how he was able to live free in his spirit even as he lived as a prisoner in Auschwitz. He realized that Nazis couldn’t keep him from living in freedom.
The same choice is available to you and me wherever we are. We can take an inventory by asking, “What are the things that hold me captive?” A few ideas to jog your thinking:
- Social media
- Need for comfort
- Relationships with manipulative people
- Wishful thinking
What keeps you from being your best self? From living free? Jesus said, “Whoever commits and practices sin is the slave of sin.” And then he said, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”**
Setting others free
But it’s not enough to revel in our own freedom. All of us who have been set free, who know what it is to walk in freedom of all kinds – the freedom of a simple lifestyle, or from the noise of social media, or from abusive relationships – have a call to help others who may be living in captivity.
The help we give doesn’t have to be complicated. We share what we ourselves have received. We encourage, we pray, we advocate for, we help as we’re able. We offer freedom of the spirit.
It’s a glorious thing to help set the captives free.
Think about the people we revere. Aren’t almost all of them liberators? Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, George Washington – name your hero. What made them heroic was the way they fought for others.
Who do you fight for? Are there widows and orphans in distress who know your name? Are there those under oppression or in captivity who bless you? It often takes so little to make a difference for those in need
When you focus on helping those like Gerard get to freedom, it can feel scary at first, but freedom is contagious. Jesus loves to use his followers to help others who were trapped as they were.
I’m betting Gerard is going to make up for lost time when he leaves the cage, walking out a calling to show young people what real freedom feels like.
Some of us need to decide to join him – we have been in a prison of one sort or another for too long. It’s time that we too made up for lost time.