Psalm 142: From Prison Cells
If prison walls could talk . . . you would hear stories as unique as all of the individuals who have resided therein. The walls of Long Kesh prison in Northern Ireland would have tales of hunger strikes and protests as IRA prisoners demanded to be treated as political prisoners and refused to put on prison garb, remaining naked in cold cells. Other prisons have equally horrific tales of mistreatment and harsh conditions. The writer of Psalm 142 shares his experience of being imprisoned.
Prisons may be seedbeds for revolutions, places of punishment, or even places of spiritual growth. Martin Luther King Jr and Ghandi both used jail time to strengthen their non-violent revolutions. For some, the enforced quiet and isolation from the rest of the world can bring them to reflect on their life and make changes for the better. For others, it is a school for crime as prisoners meet and exchange information and come out hardened criminals rather than rehabilitated.
The reason for being in prison can make a difference in the outcome. Those entering prison for acts of civil disobedience find the experience different from those sent to prison for robbery or murder. Their beliefs sustain them. They can experience a freedom within prison walls not experienced by others on the outside.
Prisons of our own Making
Sometimes harsher than physical walls are the prisons of our own making. Some may be imprisoned by hatred, bitterness, anger, jealousy or fear. Drug addiction or other self-destructive habits imprison others. All take away our freedom and keep us from living full lives.
Whatever your experience of prison life, it is not a place we want to be.
The writer of Psalm 142 finds himself in this place. All who know him have abandoned him, leaving him to his persecutors. “In the path where I walk they have hidden a trap for me, I look to the right and watch, but there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me, no man cares for me.” (3b-4) “Deliver me from my persecutors; for they are too strong for me! Bring me out of my prison, that I may give thanks to your name!” (6b-7a)
We don’t know what he did to deserve such treatment. He cries out to God for help. “I cry with my voice to the Lord, with my voice I make supplication to the Lord. I pour out my complaint and tell my troubles before him.” (1-2) The writer continues to call upon God. “I cry to you, O Lord; I say, you are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living. Give heed to my cry for I am brought very low!” (5-6a)
He ends, confident that God hears him. “The righteous will surround me; for you will deal bountifully with me.” (7b) From within prison walls, the writer turns to God.
We Have a Choice
Whatever prison we may be experiencing, whether of our own making or brought on by poor choices, we have a choice how we will spend our time. We may grow harder and move farther away from others and God, or we may use the time to grow closer to our God.
The choice is ours.
What has been your experience of prison?
This post is part of a series of blog posts on the Psalms. Sign up to follow this blog and and receive a free copy of Still Dancing, the second book in my Dancing through Life Series. click here to sign up
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