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Give Me Back My Chains!

by Anita Miles

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  

Matthew 11:30

This past week I walked out of my office to head down the hall a few steps to my supervisor’s office. As I neared the exit to the hall, I could hear the unfamiliar sound of a clanky noise that was not exactly the norm in my current work setting. I rounded the corner to come nose to nose with a young man with disheveled curly dark hair, eyes that were downcast, and an expression that we would label as “flat.” No emotion whatsoever. No smile, no nod, no acknowledgment at all that there was another human being anywhere near him. From head to toe, he had the obvious garb of a juvenile delinquent, with great big letters boasting the initials of the facility plastered across his uniform to which he belonged. One arm was bandaged up from a recent injury, and both of his arms were bound closely to his sides with chains that attached to another chain wrapped around his waist. His feet were also shackled by chains that left him only with the possibility of a quick shuffle instead of confident and steady footsteps. This shuffle created the clanging sound as the chains would slap across the floor with each step.

The young prisoner was escorted by a beast of a security guard that stood at least a head taller and was twice as broad across the shoulders as the boy. Behind them walked the solemn-faced mother of the young prisoner who would have obviously rather been anywhere except in her particular current situation! I nodded at her and gave a greeting appropriate for the circumstance. She nodded back and continued on to the boy’s medical appointment as I turned and walked numbly back to my office to sit and stare blankly at the walls for a few moments to let the exchange sink in. There was an intense pity I felt for the mother of having to witness the public display of her son’s captivity. Naturally, a part of me wondered what in the world the boy did to get himself into this mess to begin with…

As I sat there pondering the previous few moments, the train of thoughts led me in several directions…. Why in the world would anyone deliberately choose to do something that would result in that type of bondage? And once you’ve experienced that bondage, why would one ever do anything to have to go back to that? That question led me to thoughts of our previous Sunday School lesson in our ladies class.

Over the past couple of months, we’ve been studying the journey of Moses and the children of Israel and their escape out of Egypt. There was a scripture from last week’s lesson that rolled over and over in my mind… “and the children of Israel said unto them {Moses and Aaron} would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full” Exodus 16: 3a … “and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside the manna, before our eyes.” Numbers 11:4-6

On this side of the Egyptian escape, it’s easy to judge the complaints of the children of Israel as they journeyed through the wilderness in search of a promised land. In the name of transparency, I can’t say that I wouldn’t have gotten a little frustrated after a while the need to speed the process up a little bit would have felt a little overwhelming to me. Not to mention the fact that after a while they had to eat the same thing over and over again - day after day - nevermind the fact that God is personally providing it and all they had to do was go pick up what they needed for their family! If you’re feeling a bit smug about the fact that you just don’t think you would have complained after watching God so miraculously deliver and provide, I want you to reconsider that thought the next time you’re at Cracker Barrel and are whining because there are too many good things to choose from!!

If we whine in abundance, rest assured, we would have complained in perceived famine.

But to want to go back…? Who in their right mind would want to go back? Somehow in all of the Israelites’ frustrations and discontent, a taste of a pot of meat, some stinky fish, onions, and garlic seemed to outweigh the thoughts of what a life of captivity had been like! Now if that is a perception that is not wildly askew, I don’t know what is… Who would willingly and knowingly cry aloud “Give me back my chains?”

It’s beyond our comprehension to imagine that someone would say that out loud, but how many times have we seen this played out in the lives of those we care about or even experienced it in our own lives? In the times when something or someone has seemingly altered our satisfaction with Christ, the image of Egypt seems to be a bit more attractive… As one man said, “how sad it is that the memories of the barbecues of Egypt outweighed the reality of the slavery!” But day after day, year after year, we watch as people we know and love become disillusioned for one reason or another and become discontent with their Christian journey and decide that the slavery of Egypt may not have been so bad after all! And slowly but surely, they trade in the peace that they once had for the anxieties that the world offers. For some, the church life was just part of their culture and the experience of watching God provide time after time is and was of little value...labeled just another event for the history books. The years of reasoning a pure and separated life away took hold and have eventually led them back into the bondage of Egypt.

Egypt can be different things to different people. For some, it’s the toxic and ungodly relationships they just can’t walk away from. For some, it’s an addiction and the need for the next fix from a substance. For some, it’s constant fear and anxiety that is debilitating. For some, it’s the rebellion of needing to do whatever is the opposite of what those in authority want from them. And so on… No matter what the sin is, it is a captor, and it binds, and it holds. And before they know it, they are once again bound unmercifully by the chains of the wicked taskmaster, Satan himself.

Recently I stood at the front of the church beside my 12-year-old daughter as a young homeless woman with a severe drug addiction was praying. I leaned over and said to my daughter - “there’s only one thing that will make you different from her.” She looked up at me inquisitively as to wonder what that one thing was. I replied to her “one decision. That one continuous decision will be that you want to follow Christ more than you want to go back to Egypt.”

I challenge each of us to do some powerful soul searching on where we are on this Christian journey. Do we paint images of Egypt in our head - intentionally or unintentionally - leaving out the details of the bondage and slavery it held, only remembering how good the food tasted and smelled? Does the prosperity of the wicked look more appealing than the provisions that God has given? Does being a chosen people - separated unto God - seem to be unnecessary and more trouble than it’s worth? Do we unwittingly cry “give me back my chains?”

While I do not pretend that there won’t be days that a cross must be taken up in following Christ, I can assure you that there is abundant life and freedom in the journey. God’s promise of an easy yoke and a light burden is true. The weight of condemnation is lifted when Christ turns the key on the locks of the chains that Egypt once bound us with. There is rest in Him. The pillow is softer at night. The bed is more comfortable. I’m in pursuit of the land flowing with milk and honey.

I cannot and will not be deterred by misrepresented imaginations of the past or an easier shortcut to Heaven that Satan attempts to plant and water in each of our minds.

We must refuse to be held captive.

Christ’s purpose is still as powerful as the day He stood up in the synagogue to read the prophecy of Isaiah, and it is a promise for each and everyone who will come to him. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” Luke 4:18

Egypt can keep its chains. I’m forever grateful for the deliverance that is found in Him!
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