“Why do you stay in prison, when the door is so wide open?”
I am certainly not in prison but I know exactly what he means.
Something within my own soul recognises the prison as ‘dwelling on the past” and “worrying about the future.” I wander what comes to mind for you as you read that? Yet I believe this is something that a lot of us tend towards, and more often than we would like.
I also recognise that the door he speaks of, that is so wide open, leads to the place that we all, I feel, desire from this life and that is to be living in the moment, fully connected and engaging with the immediate present. Not constantly thinking back or worrying into the future, because that takes away from us, distracts us and disconnects us.
The question I find myself asking is what sends us to this prison? And what is it that keeps us there? What makes us live from moment to moment physically, but mentally or emotionally, staggering and stumbling through the past or scrambling around an imagined future?
In my own walk through life, I can see that it is hurt and choosing to be offended that can send us to that kind of prison but it is unforgiveness that keep us there. Holding onto those feelings when we get hurt, keeps us imprisoned in that place of pain.
I sat in that prison for a long, long time. And I suffered. I’m not going to write about the things that caused me hurt because they don’t really matter now, no one can change the things that have already happened but what I will write about is the immense power I found in the process of forgiveness.
A free soul is a healthy soul
Nelson Mandela put it perfectly;
But it is you that suffers from hanging on, and it is your soul that gets sick from harbouring those kinds of emotions or thoughts.
For years and years I would choose to think about what he or she had done, what he or she had said and ‘if only I could give them a piece of my mind.’ I used up so much mental and emotional energy preparing conversations with people who have hurt me; I would be armed with a comeback for every possible thing they could say to me. I had an action plan for every possible scenario I could think of.
So much energy was wasted on thinking about how he or she had hurt me or that situation. If anything, I created a hell for myself, a very dark inner world.
And what about that person, or that situation?
Nothing. My offence did not hurt them back nor did stop them from living their lives.
It only stopped me. It only made me think that I was a freak who didn’t know how to be happy. It only made me question why everyone else seemed to be enjoying life, being blessed with goodness and watching their dreams become realised. Why not me? Because I choose it, I choose to stay in prison when the door was so wide open. I only had to release those emotions and not choose those thoughts.
It was process I had to learn.
I’m not saying it is easy.
It took me years.
But I am saying that it is possible.
And it makes all the difference.
I used to think of forgiveness as something that I had to now give to the person or situation that has harmed me. I used to think forgiveness was like offering a thief a gift; that forgiving someone would somehow cost me more than the pain I was already feeling.
I was wrong.
Forgiveness is not a gift to my offender; forgiveness is a gift to me.
Forgiveness is not a giving of as much as it is a giving up, releasing a load that depresses, that chips and tears away at the health of your soul.
Forgiveness is not an invitation to the things that cuased pain. It is not accepting wrong things as ok.
Forgiveness is necessary and without it, without giving it up, we’ll suffer and then die in that prison.
I know what is like to live with deep, deep emotional pain, I really, really do. I know forgiveness is extremely challenging but I will profess its power because I can sit here and talk about it now.
I am learning. Always learning but I have breathed the crispy fresh air of walking in freedom
and it is worth it.
My heart is that you would recognise any prisons in your own life and that you would walk, no run, run toward freedom.
As CS Lewis says;
“Courage, dear heart.”