Freedom? Meh . . . no, thank you.

Arnold Ray Jones got high weekly on crack cocaine the year before his arrest and he’d failed to complete several drug treatment programs. He was finally sentenced for drug trafficking in 2002 and has spent fourteen years of twenty in prison in Beaumont, Texas. This year he petitioned the President for clemency and Obama greed to commute his sentence so he could get out early.

But when the offer arrived, Jones refused to accept it. Why? There were strings attached; he had to enroll in a residential drug treatment program and apparently Jones chose to avoid surrender, submission, or any accountability . . . and stay locked up.

Freedom may sound good, but when one has to give up the familiar comfort of free housing, meals, medical care, recreation, library and entertainment access, and submit daily to someone who makes you pee in a cup, well . . . fuggedaboutit!

This is a sad analogy of many of us who are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually locked up in prisons of our own fears and vices. We cry for help, someone comes to our rescue, but with strings attached we reject the offer.

People often come to me with their difficult relationship problems or complaints and—as the best long-term solution—I listen and then try to help them infuse their faith into the situation.

Put your religion in your relationships,” I’ll say. I offer an empathetic heart, practical tips, examples from Scripture, the beauty and truth of Church teachings, well-constructed plans, encouragement, and support.

And they still refuse to move away from the problem. In that problem is some sort of payoff they don’t want to lose.

What makes us choose the prison of our own egos, unforgiveness, pride, or sinfulness? It’s FEAR, and I’m as guilty, your Honor, as the rest. It keeps me humble to recall the years I refused the offers our Lord kept putting in my path and the struggles I still have.

Do you know someone who operates out of these fears?

Fear of:
having to submit to authority
having to give up control
hard work, pain, or suffering
deprivation or loss of certain pleasures

We get inordinately attached to those things that give us temporal pleasure, security, or meaning and we choose:

what is immediate instead of having to wait
what is easy instead of anything that requires hard work
what suits me best instead of someone else

In the story of the rich young ruler Jesus offered the man a get-out-of-jail card (and a ticket to heaven) but it came with strings attached: the man had to let go of his possessions and the power, prestige, or pleasures they gave him and follow the Lord. The man was not ready. That man is all of us.

You and I still have areas in our life where we are in a self-induced struggle to find freedom from fear, ego, and whatever vices to which we are still attached. What keeps you in imprisoned? What is your ball and chain? (and don’t say your spouse!)

Jesus visits us in our cells. He’s there with a hand and an understanding heart. He loves you, sympathizes with your fear, but he wants to help you unlock that door and come out. He is the Key.

Come out, Lazarus.
Pickup your mat and walk.
Arise, little girl.
Come, follow me.

The next time you prepare for confession—or maybe tonight when you make an end-of-the-day examen—ask the Lord to show you the particular or primary cell which you have constructed, the iron bars which are not really there, and the way to true freedom.  I’ll be praying the same prayer.