A few years ago God gave me this amazing vision. It all started one night two years ago when I picked up an old journal of mine and read an entry I had written describing how I felt after coming to know Jesus. I was trying to describe how I felt and the best way I could put it was that I felt released from a prison that I had kept myself in. I remember trying to sleep that night after reading this journal entry, but instead...God gave me this vision. It came to me so clearly and it changed my life and my understanding of God. Looking back on that night from where I am today...I can see how much I have changed. I continue to let go of old thoughts and behaviors that keep me from reaching my full potential. Now, I feel like absolutely nothing is impossible. Every time I have fear and doubt God continues to prove to me that He can do anything. He has been so good to me that I can't even express it with words. I know I don't deserve it and I mess up all the time, but I sure do appreciate it and am so grateful for the best friend I have in God. I don't know why, but for some reason it's been really hard for me to blog this. It's been saved and sitting in my posts box for days. I usually don't have such a hard time sharing, but for some reason I have felt very apprehensive about sharing this. I don't know if it's because I am protective of it because it was such an amazing experience for me or because I am afraid of what people will think. But.....I want to share this vision with you. : )
I am in a jail cell. It is a jail cell similar to the ones you would see in the old westerns; stone walls and barred windows. I am standing at the window with my arms hanging out of the bars and looking out over the town. I am watching as the townspeople go about their daily lives. Family outings. Shopping. Playing. Talking. Laughing. As I watch them, I think to myself, “Look at them, out there enjoying their lives. They get to have fun and live the dream, and I am stuck in here. It’s lucky for them that I am in here and not out there with them. I deserve to be in here. Someone like me that keeps messing up doesn't deserve to be free.” I feel envious of these people, wishing that I had what they had, but I only allow that feeling to creep up for a second, then I quickly remind myself that they get to have the good life because they deserve it. They are good people. They do what they are supposed to, and I can’t seem to control myself. I don’t get to have that life because I deserve to be in here.
I spend some of my days at the barred windows; watching as people live their lives of freedom. Other days I walk to the other side of my cell away from the window so that I don’t have to watch everyone lead their happy, carefree lives. Sometimes I stay away from the window for so long that I almost forget that there is an outside. But inevitably, I walk right back over to the window and look out and remember that there are people out there living the life I wish I was good enough to have.
I have done this same back and forth movement for years. Finally, one day, I get completely fed up just watching the townspeople. Why CAN’T I have what they have? Why do I have to be in here and not out there? Am I not a human too? I finally say to myself, “Alright, that’s it. I am tired of this! I am tired of watching everyone live the life I want. I want what they have! I want out of here!!” As I say this, I look down at my left hand to discover that there is a key laying in it. I look up at the cell door and I see a prison guard standing there looking at me.
I walk over to him, holding out the key, and ask, “What is this?”
He glances at it, smiles, and replies, “Well, it looks like a key to me.”
Confused, I say, “I see that, but what’s it for?”
He looks at me with a look of amusement and says,“To the door of your cell of course, what else would it be for?”
I reply, “But where did it come from?”
He smiles and says, “You tell me...you're the one that's had it in your hand this whole time.”
Huh!? I am amazed and shocked at this. I've had it the whole time? What's he talking about? I give the guard a puzzled look.
He sees my confusion and says to me, “All this time that you have been walking back and forth you have had that key in your hand. Heck, you've had that dag-on thing in your hand since you got here.”
I told him I still didn’t understand. What was I supposed to do with it?
He giggles and then tells me that I am supposed to open my cell door with it.
I immediately start to argue with him, “Now wait a minute, I can’t open this door and leave. That just doesn’t happen! I'm not stupid. If it seems too easy, then it must be too good to be true. I can already see what will happen next....I'll believe that I can be free, and then I will find out that it's not true just like everything else in my life. No thanks. I'd rather not put myself through more disappointment. Plus, if I get out there is gonna be trouble. I can't be trusted. I'll mess up again for sure. Not only do I hurt other people, but...I hurt myself. I can't seem to make a good decision if you pay me. It is best if I just stay in here, where it’s safe....where you can watch me. Besides, if I get out, I will just end up right back here because I am just going to keep on doing the same thing I did to get put in here in the first place. It would just be easier for me to just accept I belong here and just stay.”
The guard looks at me and says, “Hey, that‘s fine with me. Whatever you want, kid . I’m just tellin’ you like it is. You can leave whenever you want, your bail has already been posted.”
My eyes shoot open wide in disbelief.
“W-w-who, who posted my bail? “ I question the guard.
As I ask this question the jailer points over his shoulder and says, “That Guy...He has a couple of different names, but I think you'll know Him best as Jesus."
I can't believe my eyes! Sitting right outside my cell is.....JESUS! He looks just like a normal guy you would see on the street. Where's the long hair, the beard, and the robe? Shouldn't He have a Bible or something? He has a kind and amused smile on his face. He gives me a look as if to say, “Hey, what are you waiting on!? Let’s get outta here!”
But it's still not enough. Even though I can see Jesus sitting there I still think there is a catch.
I look at the guard and say, “Jesus? THE Jesus? Really? This can't be real. What is He doing here? I still just don’t understand. I know you say that Jesus posted my bail, but how am I supposed to know it’s true. AND why would He do that for me, I never do anything right, and I certainly never do anything for Him. I don’t even know Him. All I know is that I'm not interested in Him and never have been. Doesn't that make Him mad? See, I have my own ideas about life. I think I'll stick with those. Listen, it’s great that Jesus posted my bail this time, but I am just gonna go out in the world and mess up again, and end up right back here. What’s the point in going out, just to come right back. I should just stay. That’s awful nice of Him and all, but it’s just not for me. I can’t.”
The guard looks at me and says “Again, Katie, you can do whatever you want. But just to let you know, He posted your bail before you ever got in here. He did that for you because He loves you regardless of whether you are "interested" in Him or not. You can pretend He's not real, but that doesn't make Him any less real. Not only did He post your bail before you ever got locked up, but He has already paid your bail for all the times in the future you ever come back. Your bail is posted so that you won’t ever have to stay in prison again. Isn’t that EXCITING?! Personally, I think it is. I mean, I'm sorry to be so frank, but....I would think that anything would be better than what you've managed to create for yourself here. But...I'm just a prison guard...what do I know?”
Believe it or not, I am still not convinced. Why would Jesus do that? How does He even know me? Jesus seems like such a strict guy...from what I've heard. Where's the hellfire and brimstone!? I really don't want to believe all this stuff just because everyone else does. It all seems like a great story...a fairy tale...but let's get real...people just use this Jesus guy as a crutch. They seem a little ignorant if you ask me.
The guard realizes that I am having a hard time with all this. I wish I could be excited, but I just don’t believe that it's all true.
I pace back and forth, clutching the key tightly in my hand. I try to decide if I should leave the place I have known for so long. It's not a nice place, but I know it so well. I'm familiar with my routine. I'm familiar with the coldness. I'm familiar with watching other people live the life I think isn't for me.
I'm afraid to look up to check and see if Jesus is still there. I am afraid to meet His gaze, but at the same time...I am even more afraid to look up and find that He is no longer there.
I decide to talk to the jailer once last time.
“Sir, so what you’re sayin’, is that I can just turn this key, and open this door and just walk out and never have to come back again? But what if I do? What if I end up back here again?”
The guard looks at me with a kind eye and says, “Yep, all you have to do is turn the key and open the door. You never ever have to come back here again, BUT if you do happen to end up here again; the Good News is…you don’t ever have to stay. Now that you know you have the key and that your bail is already posted, you will never be content in this dark cold cell again. I know it’s one of the hardest steps to take to believe that once you turn that key your whole life will change, but once you just do it, you’ll never regret it. Jesus would never just post your bail, and then leave you. He’ll always be there for you. Every day He will show you that He is real. He will guide you as long as you let Him. He wants you to seek Him. He wants you to know Him. The first step is the biggest and the scariest. No one wants to be wrong and believe in something or Someone that isn't True and Real. But..you'll never know unless you try to know Him. He knows how hard this is for you. He loves you. He's waiting for you."
So, after a few deep breaths, I finally look up. To my relief, Jesus is still there, waiting patiently, lovingly, with a look of contentment on his face. I put the key in the lock and turn it. Amazingly, the cell door instantly flings open, the room is filled with light. Jesus, with a huge familiar smile on his face grabs my hand and we run out of that cell and out into the town. He holds my hand as I go about getting used to my new surroundings. Meeting all the people I had watched for so many years, but never thought I was good enough to be with. Jesus continues to be with me every day as I grow more and more accustomed to my wonderful new life. He explains to me that He has been there with me in my jail cell the entire time. He told me how he has loved me and watched me before I ever went into the cell and has loved me just as much while I was there. He has waited patiently, as I paced back and forth, unaware that I had the key in my hand, too focused on what I didn’t have to realize what I did have.
Like so many people before me and after me....sometimes I would wander right back into that jail cell. Even though I know that Jesus is always with me, He has paid my bail forever, and that life in that jail cell is dull and flat compared to living free.... I would still sometimes feel like it was just too hard. I can't do it. I have doubt and fear. I turn my back and walk away from Jesus and back toward the cell. And even though I may turn my back on Him, I know in my heart that if I look back I will see Jesus right behind me. But I sometimes I am too embarrassed to look because I know I am walking back toward a life that isn't meant for me. Sometimes I open the door to that cold cell and go in...but now something is different. Totally different. Now that I know I have the key to get out whenever I want to, it changes my perspective and my desire to be there again. It isn't comfortable anymore. I know that even though I am back in the cell, Jesus is sitting right outside the bars waiting for me with a smile on his face. Eventually I get to the point where I don’t even walk near the jailhouse anymore. I don't even recognize it....
So there you have it. I wrote that two years ago. It's hard to believe how much my life has changed since the night I had this vision. It's hard to believe how much I have changed period. I went from a life in lock-down to a life of total freedom. I feel like even though the hardest part was taking that first scary step towards God and hoping that He was real, I am continually changing and becoming more and more the person that God made me to be. I am stepping into a whole new understanding of the jail cell that I was living in for most of my life. I have limited myself so much. Things I am doing in my life and the way I see things and people are so different than they were even just a few months ago. My relationship with God is ever changing based on His perfect timing. The one thing that I want everyone...including myself....to understand is....there is FREEDOM with God; not religiousness, tradition, and rules. I really don't like labeling my relationship with God by saying that I am a "Christian"...not that there is anything wrong with that, but it's just so much more than a label. People ask me if I'm a Christian and what denomination I am, etc. I call myself a Christian because that is the universal term for someone that believes that Jesus died for our sins, but the name "Christian" can't even get close to encompassing the reality and miracle of having a real one-on-one relationship with the God that created us in His image. I don't have a denomination, I have a real relationship with God. He guides me. He talks to me. He tugs at my Heart. The way I live my life isn't because I am trying to "be good", it's because I can't live any other way now that I know God. If I try to live outside of His will I feel convicted and know that I have to redirect myself. I hate living outside of the peace of God. I will never do it again and will do whatever it takes to avoid it. If I have to live alone in the woods for the rest of my life in order to walk in the will of God, I will do it (Lord, please don't test me on that one...I mean, I really would if you asked me to, I promise...but I am just praying that you don't want me to go all J.D. Salinger). I don't follow rules or laws, I follow the Holy Spirit. The laws are written on my heart. The more religiosity and cliche "churchyness" we put on God, the more we limit Him. Sure, there are things that I do as part of my walk with God that I do over and over again (religiously, you could say) such as go to church, pray, or read my Bible, but I don't do it out of obligation or religion. Once those two things come into play you are no longer in a relationship. Don't get me wrong....if I didn't set aside at least 15 minutes a day to read my Bible, then I probably wouldn't do it. The same thing that happens in relationships with other humans can happen in your relationship with God. I know that sometimes I don't want to set time aside for God, but I have never regretted doing so. But really, the reason I go to church is because I can't wait to spend time with God and Praise Him and Thank Him for all He does for me every second of my life. You can focus too much on following laws and traditions and totally forget that you have a friend in God. Talk to Him. He wants you to lean on Him, share with Him, count on Him, believe in Him. God isn't a distant dictator in the sky...He calls Himself our Abba, which in Hebrew means Daddy. He is our Father, but he is also our Daddy. He is our Disciplinarian, but He is also delights in us and smiles when He thinks of us. He feels this way about each one of us, no matter who we are, where we live, how we live, how we act, what we eat, how we speak. He hates our sin because it separates us from Him, but He will never ever hate us. It's us who turn our backs on God when we sin, not God who turns His back on us. There are so many ways that we limit ourselves in our lives, but there are also so many ways that we limit God. God cannot be limited by what our minds can understand. He is outside of space and time. He is at my birth and at my funeral all at once. God lives in me. Anything good in me is Him. Don't live in a prison cell with a closed mind and a closed heart. You have the key...always. You are NEVER stuck. God had promised that there will always be a way out. Let God be God. We need to live our lives believing; having Faith and Hope in that we cannot see.
Love you all,
Katie "you can take my life, but you can't take my freedom" McNemar