If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Chain-Link Fences

This essay originally appeared in my book, Lessons Along the Journey.
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For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
 
            I wondered why the gazelles remained penned behind the chain-link fence. With a good running start, even I could have leapt over it – and I’m no athlete. Then our tour guide explained the reason. The fence leans into the animals’ grazing area, creating a perception that the fence is taller than it really is. Although they could easily escape, they never try.

            We continued our walking tour of the zoo, but my mind stayed with the gazelles. What irony that those fleet-footed creatures graze only a few yards from freedom, confined by a barrier more psychological than physical.

            But gazelles are not the only creatures of God trapped by psychological barriers. Like He did the gazelle, God created me to be free – to love, hope, plan, and dream. Yet I’ve lost count how many times I’ve permitted myself to be penned in by barriers rooted in my mind.

            You’d think I’d know better. I’ve read the promises of Scripture for many years – texts like, “With You I can rush an armed band, with my God to help I can leap a wall” (Psalm 18:30), and “I can do all things through (Christ) who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). But the problem is, God’s assurances usually remain in my head when they should overflow my heart.

            Sometimes I think I am a lot like Naaman, the esteemed and well-respected commander of Aram’s army. You can read about him in 2 Kings, chapter 5.

            But respect and esteem could not free him from the prison of his leprosy and his story makes for a good object lesson in faith – and challenges even the 21st century reader. When Naaman learned the Jewish prophet Elisha could pray over him and heal his disease, he traveled to Israel expecting a miraculous cure. But instead of praying over the Aramean, Elisha told him to wash himself seven times in the Jordan, “and your flesh will heal, and you will be clean” (verse 10).

            Naaman grew furious. “I thought that he would surely come out and stand there to invoke the Lord his God, and would move his hand over the spot, and would cure the leprosy.” The commander of Aram’s military forces was not only locked into his disease, but he was also a prisoner of his expectations about how God should do things.

            The story ends well for Naaman, but only after he trusted the prophet – and got wet.

            But what of our story?

What kind of spiritual fences imprison us? Indecision? Scripture answers, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all” (James 1:5). Loneliness? God promises, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).  Fear or doubt? The Lord Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me” (John 14:1).

            Every now and again I lift my eyes toward the hills, yearning to graze in the lush fields beyond the fence. And sometimes, as I scan the horizon, I catch a glimpse of what Elisha knew, and Naaman had to learn: no fence can withstand the power of our Heavenly Father. He opens and no one can shut. He shuts, and no one can open. He holds the keys of death and of hell (see Revelation 1:18). Why do I doubt He can open less formidable prisons?

 

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