Thursday Thematics: Release from Darkness for the Prisoners

Thursday Thematics is a new and ongoing series of posts focused on given topics or passages of scripture relevant to adoption, knowing God, and learning to live simply and love radically. Please feel free to tweet theme suggestions to me @AmandaEPeterson.

For our first theme, we're walking through the anointments of Isaiah 61--the passage Jesus read in the Nazareth synagogue at the beginning of his earthly ministry (Luke 4:16-20). After finishing his reading, Jesus rolls up the scroll and says to the crowd, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." If this scripture has been fulfilled, how does a fulfilled version of Isaiah 61 impact our lives today?

...release from darkness for the prisoner...

I reported a child abuse case to Children's Protective Services yesterday.

A first.

Yes, I know and have known many kids who have been abused. I've been involved in their healing process. I've been involved in loving them and teaching them to trust adults again. I've been on the what-happens-after side of things.

And yes, I've suspected children I know are being abused, but I've never had enough evidence to report. I've never been able to say I know.


I know.

And it feels dark and heavy.

Hanging up the phone with CPS, I wanted to run into the open air, to feel light and sunshine on my face, to throw off the darkness.

I left my desk for a bit and took a walk around the building.

I shed a bit of the darkness and prayed. I prayed as Jesus taught me to pray:

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, 
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
Amen.

I prayed for this family. I prayed protection over them. I prayed for the evidence to be clearer to CPS than it is to me so the family might get the help they need. I prayed for light to penetrate the darkness and for all to be exposed.

I prayed for a family, for children, imprisoned in their own home and begging for the light.

***

Preparing for this post, the phrase "release from darkness for the prisoner," stumped me. Release from darkness seems to be so much more than simply being let out of prison. To my mind, the simple poetry of it had to imply a more metaphorical meaning.

Other translations use a more literal "opening of the prison" (NKJV) and some repeat the idea of "freedom" (NAS) from the previous statement. But pulling out the big word study books given to me years ago as a college graduation present--the big books that were too much for the Peace Corps luggage weight restrictions and have set in storage for three and a half years dearly missed--there seems to be a much bigger idea here. It seems to be both a literal opening of prisons and a figurative opening of eyes.

Emma Donoghue in her novel Room tells a transfixing story of a boy and her mother taken captive by a man and imprisoned in a one room shed in his backyard. The woman is the man's sex slave and the boy the result of years of imprisonment. Donoghue crafts her story entirely from the view point of this little boy who was born in the room and in his five years of life has never left it.

Never felt sunshine on his face. Never felt grass between his toes. Never smelled fresh air. Never met another human being besides his mother and the man.

(Spoiler alert)

Eventually the boy and his mother escape and he is introduced to the world outside. It is both a terrifying and freeing experience for him as he longs for the comfort of the known but is discovering grandparents and trees and wind and all the many things that make up the world. When he eventually goes back to see the room he grew up in, he finds it small and barren and colorless and not a place he wants to be or live.

I think this is what release from darkness is like--opening the prison and opening our eyes to what we were not aware existed. This release is the awareness that comes with encountering Christ and discovering our own bindings, our own prison. It's the encounter we have each time the Spirit shows us something in our lives we didn't know was there, we didn't know was holding us captive. It's the coming back to the old prison, the old habits, the old life after we've found freedom trying them on again and realizing they are much less satisfying than our new life. It's the shedding of the old way of life and the being made new.

It's the blind man healed.

There had to be moments of terror. Moments when he wanted to unsee what was just seen. Moments where the world seemed unbelievably big and overwhelming. But if you asked him if he wanted to be blind again, I have no doubt he would say "no" every time. Just as the prisoner will say "no" every time you ask him if he wants to go back to prison.

This release from darkness is a whole new way of life--a whole new way of being. And we're fools if we choose to go back into the darkness. We're fools if we choose dark over light.

We're all familiar with the groan moment that comes when we've sat in darkness for a long time and someone walks in and flicks on the light. You're eyes cringe at the sudden brightness and you squint and try to make your eyes adjust faster so you can see once again.

But eventually your eyes adjust and the light is welcome. You see more clearly.

This is what Isaiah is saying, Jesus is coming to flick on the switch and bring light were there was once darkness. He's coming to release you from the darkness where you are bound and imprisoned.

______________________

Read other posts in this series:
     Proclaiming Good News to the Poor
     Binding Up the Brokenhearted