"What a fool," quoth he, "am I, thus to lie in a stinking Dungeon,
when I may as well walk at liberty."
I've said this before, but one of my favorite things about teaching English is the opportunities that arise from our literature lessons. When we read an excerpt from Pilgrim's Progress this week, this quote really jumped out at me.
If you're unfamiliar with this part of the book, Christian has found himself a prisoner of Doubting Castle. He stays in the Dungeon for quite a while before finally realizing that he actually holds the Key (called Promises) to the Dungeon and can leave of his own free will! So, naturally, it takes our buddy Chris about two seconds to flee that nasty Dungeon and get back on the road to the Celestial City.
Think about it... If prisoners held the keys to the prison, how many prisoners would stay imprisoned? (Say that five times fast.) Seriously, though- our jails would probably be empty. Somehow I doubt that all our nation's criminals would just dutifully lock themselves up each day and hang the keys outside the cell like Otis on The Andy Griffith Show.
But remember, this is an allegory, so every part of the story has a double (in this case spiritual) meaning. Are we any different than Otis, locking ourselves into jail? It's crazy, foolish, and even (dare I say it?) stupid to go around feeling like we are imprisoned by sin, or circumstances, or desires that we know to be wrong. Are some things out of our control? Sure, but most of my daily decisions are just that- mine. And I can either feel enslaved to my own selfishness and carnality, trapped by my own trials, and captured by own weaknesses, or I can take out the key of God's promises , throw open the door to the Dungeon, and walk out in freedom.
I made this point to my students: there is nothing restrictive (in a "prison" sense) about God's love or His will. As Mark Hall wrote, "When you're tired of fighting and chained by your control, there's freedom in surrender- lay it down and let it go." We are often only imprisoned by our own desire to control. The most freeing, liberating thing in the world is to actually relinquish that hold, whatever it may be, and instead trust God's promises.
Our Bible study group (yes, that again) has been talking about God's sovereignty quite a bit. If God is sovereign and has everything divinely planned, then wouldn't it be a whole lot smarter for me to claim the promises of His word as the key to my own freedom instead of desperately straining against chains that bind me by my own design? (Ouch!)
So, I can either feel like I'm living life in a Dungeon, whether it's a besetting sin or trying situation, or weakness of character (or all those things!) that have me imprisoned... or I can get smart and take the key that is already in my possession and open the door. I'd so much rather "walk with liberty" than live my life in prison.... wouldn't you? Let's not be stupid. =)