It was one of those instances when in a single moment my thoughts were stolen from the midst of the conversation that I was a partaker of and completely betrayed me by straying- focused on a different topic altogether. I smiled and nodded but eventually even my eyes traveled to what now held my inner attentiveness. “It’s our pet” explained the little girl with a broad smile on her face, “we saved it from the storm.”
A little brown finch held captive in a lidded aquarium was repeatedly looking up, flapping its wings and hitting its head on the mesh wire. Again, and again and again I watched as this frail creature did everything that it knew how to do to be free. Instead of finding the freedom that it so desperately sought however it was just wounding itself, becoming weaker as every effort to fly as hard and fast as it could out of its prison was causing it to hit its head on the very boundary that held it within.
I was amazed at the emotional response that this triggered within my soul and suddenly had to hold back tears of sadness. Almost immediately I was shocked to find my deep sadness followed by an even deeper rage. The injustice of this, helpless, guiltless creature’s situation overwhelmed me. It was doing everything that it knew how to do to be free of the prison that it found itself in by someone else’s hand.
In order to maintain my composure at that moment I had to tuck it away, push it down, forcing myself to focus on what I was there for. It wasn’t until later, as I sat quietly before the Lord, that I again allowed myself to picture that little finch. The tears were standing by, waiting to fulfill their purpose. I allowed all that was within to pour out and I wept- tears that were filled with great sadness, anger, bitterness…frustration. I realized that the reason that that trapped little finch could draw so much from the inside of me was because I had been that little finch.
For so many years I had spent the majority of my time, energy and effort striving to be FREE from a prison that I had been placed in because of other people’s choices. For too long I lived my life consumed with being wounded- anger, pain, emptiness, self- hatred. I cried so many tears that I was sure there weren’t any left to be cried. I remember that a consistent theme that tormented my heart was “this is not fair!” I remember wholeheartedly resenting the fact that I had to work so hard to overcome so many obstacles that were part of who I had become due to the abuse and mistreatment that came at the hands of others.
And yet, getting stuck in the resentment of being imprisoned only leaves you stuck. I know enough about nature to know that if that little finch was not set free it eventually stopped trying to fly out. It would lose hope discovering that freedom could never be found within the strength of its own effort.
Again the realization- I had been that little finch. For years I found myself frustrated at remaining imprisoned despite the strength of my own effort to be free. It wasn’t until I realized that my only freedom could come not from my own strength at all but from my dependence upon the only one that offers freedom, encouragement and hope to all who are imprisoned that I began to experience the very freedom that I longed for.
Psalm 118:5 Out of my distress I called upon the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free and in a large place.