Anyperson was imprisoned, kept chained by bars of iron that they carried around without even noticing. Bars created by shaming: the teasing and unkind bullying from others; the times they’d messed up and been trodden down for it; the times they’d been clumsy; the times others made it clear how horrible they were. But bars created, also, by Anyperson’s own belief in that shaming, the way they’d taken it on as a fact, and fought against it. Anyperson’s imprisonment was partly created by their own need for the perfection, for the purity, that they strove for, and that they inevitably failed in. But Anyperson was so used to those bars, that they didn’t even notice that they were there. Anyperson would condemn themselves, well before anybody else could get in and do so; often, they condemned themselves for reasons that others mightn’t notice, or pay much attention to. But Anyperson remained imprisoned, condemned, inevitably to failure and stupidity, not because that was necessarily so, but because those bars they carried around perpetually told them so. Unconsciously, Anyperson was looking for ways in which they might be put down, and condemned themselves before anyone else could get there. They needed to avoid being shamed, because they carried around so much shame anyway, that more aroused that which was already hidden.
This was all unnecessary, because Anyperson also knew that Jesus came to set us free, to bring us life. Anyperson knew that they were forgiven, that God was a merciful God who loves and forgives us. Anyperson knew that God loved them. Yet, still, those prison bars remained in place, partly because Anyperson was so used to them, that they didn’t realise they were there. But Anyperson did believe, and would regularly pray and meditate on the bible. One day they were meditating on John 3, especially verses 14-21, and a picture came to mind of prison bars. Anyperson realised that these bars were their own prison bars, the bars of their shame and condemnation. But Jesus came to set us free from condemnation, if we believe in him. Which Anyperson did. They realised that the shame and condemnation they carried around with them was from the past; they realised, too, that they maybe were in some ways clumsy, and maybe could be horrible sometimes. That this was the human condition, that all that seeking after perfection was impossible, because they weren’t perfect, and nobody could expect them to be, least of all themselves. They pictured the light of Jesus coming and shining into them, realising that it would shine into the horrible bits, as well as the good parts, and, actually, that that was okay. Good, even. For our weakness is God’s strength.
They had known this before, as they had known that they weren’t condemned before. But it had been a surface knowledge. Now, Anyperson started to spend time with that realisation, allowing God’s light to come deeper and deeper into themselves, allowing it to shine on both the good parts and the bad, allowing that sense of God’s forgiveness and mercy, moreover that sense of NO CONDEMNATION, to sink further and deeper into themselves, that this might start to dissolve the prison bars, and enable them to start living more as God’s person, more as a person loved by God and less as a person condemned, whether by others or themselves.
Anyperson started to realise how little time they spent just contemplating God for who God is; looking at God’s love, rather than at themselves; rejoicing in the love of God, and all that God gives them. How little time they spent consciously thanking God – for what was good and for what was bad. The apostles (Acts 5:41) celebrated because they had been found worthy to suffer disgrace for Jesus; did Anyperson ever do that? Although, to be fair, they reckoned mostly disgrace came because they were horrible rather than doing God’s will. But even that was a reason to rejoice: for it was not the end of the story. If they were shamed or disgraced, whatever the reason, God was there to forgive and restore – and Anyperson realised that this might take some time. In fact, it had taken their whole lifetime, so far, for this realisation to come to them.
Anyperson knew that this wasn’t the whole story: that this was an imperfect world where bad and horrible things happened to people. But they hoped that by truly seeing and acknowledging their own horrible side, they could pray better into these situations and hopefully respond less out of their own issues and more from the Love God bore. For God so loved the world…. and that included Anyperson, as well as the people who had shamed them.