Thursday, August 4, 2016

Rattle My Chains

Even as I sit in slavery, behind bars, holding a gun to my own head, one of the absolute coolest things about Jesus is that He's content to sit there with me. This Man, this Son of God, who paid such a high price for me, who burst in and rescued me, who opened the doors of my prison cell longs that I would get up and walk out, but He does not demand it. He knows that I just don't know what to do with this.

And so, He comes.

And He sits.

He sits with me in the darkness as I fiddle my fingers around the gun, clicking and releasing the hammer, checking and re-checking the chamber. These bullets, they were meant for me and...and I just can't get over that. I don't know what to do about that. I take one out, roll it around in my fingers, then put it back in the chamber and lock it shut, shaking my head. I look up at Jesus, who so skillfully rescued me from my kidnapper and patiently, ever so patiently, is working even now to rescue me from myself.

He sits with me in the holding pen, His ears still bleeding from the awl of the auctioneer. We're free, He confirms with a smile spreading across His face, even though He bears the marks of a slave. We're free. We can leave at any time, yet here we stand, the two of us among thousands. Here we stand because I don't know where I would go or what I would do; I've never really thought about it, at least not as a real possibility, and He...He is not going anywhere without me. So here we stand, free as birds, surrounded by slaves, so close that we can hear the sounds of the jeering crowd as another and another and yet one more slave is brought to the block. Surrounded by mothers who are ripped from their children, sons who are taken from their fathers, brothers and sisters who are separated. Surrounded by weeping and aching and bitter pain. And I can't for the life of me imagine it any other way; I don't know where I would go. I don't know what's even out there. So here we stand, stupid smiles on our faces and faint echoes in our hearts, looking at one another. We're free.

He sits with me in the prison cell, my feet dangling off the cot as I kick at the chains that once held me there. The doors are wide open; the bars no longer hold me. But like Paul when the angel set him free, I cry out to the jailer, It's okay. I'm here. I'm still here. Something about the noise of the chains comforts me; it's all I've come to know. And when it's been too long, when it's been quiet for too long, sometimes even Jesus reaches over and rattles those chains, my chains, because He knows how the noise comforts me.

And that's where things start to change. That's where my heart starts to turn.

See, I love that I have a God who is willing to sit in the dark places with me, a God who understands that this whole freedom thing is harder than I ever imagined. I love that I have a God who will rattle my chains every now and then, but when I see Jesus sitting there next to me, my chains in His hands, something more than the sound strikes me. It's the sadness in His eyes that gets me. As He rolls each link around in His fingers, I can't help but watch and wonder what He's thinking.

It's not unlike the scene where He stoops down and begins writing in the dust in the company of sinners. I wonder how many watched His fingers and how many saw His eyes. I wonder how many were waiting on Him to speak, not words of condemnation, but, you know, something Jesus-y. (The accusers, of course, were waiting on vindication, but I wonder how many were waiting on tenderness.)

And here we are, just the two of us, and I'm having that moment. I'm having that moment where I can't breathe, where I'm watching His fingers and I'm watching His eyes, and I'm waiting for Him to speak tenderness, and all the while, the longer He plays with my chains, I feel something building up inside me.

It's shame.

It's this quiet little shame that knows that I have chosen, that I keep choosing, these chains over the God who is willing to sit here and play with them. It is this quiet little shame that knows it's been found out, that knows that He knows that I'm far more comforted by the rattle of chains than by the open door. I may even be more comforted by these chains than I am by His presence. It's this quiet little shame that counts bullets more than mercies. That's been bought but won't accept its price, won't claim its worth. It's this quiet little shame that we in Christian circles call conviction, and it's creeping in because of the goodness of a God who longs for me to leave this place, but doesn't demand it.

It's this quiet little shame that does demand more. It demands that I do something. It demands that I resolve the ache that it's placed in my heart. So what's a girl to do?

Do I pull my chains out of His hands, demand that He leave them alone? Turn my back on Him and continue to play in my bondage, continue in my darkness with this sense of His breathing over my shoulder? Do I walk out and find another cell somewhere, find a place where He hasn't come yet, where He won't follow me? Do I take His hand and lead Him out the door, forcing Him to go where I'm going, not permitting Him ever to leave me? Do I yell, scream, blame, condemn, hate Him for bringing me to a place where my heart aches like this at all?

More often than not, I simply crumble and cry, resting my head in His lap, letting His fingers run through my hair. I...I don't know how to leave this place, but I fall a little more into Him at every chance. I let shame nip at my feet until I cannot stand, then nip at my knees until I fall and then, and then...the God who is more content to rattle my chains than He ought to be catches me. He comforts me. He quiets the darkness, and here, I find rest. Rest.

We're free.

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