I started thinking of this clip only today as I was driving home from work. I had stopped off at a petrol station to fill up my car. Part way through I suddenly realised that I was relaxing against the side of the car as I held the nozzle in place – I was ACTUALLY relaxed!!! My anxious thoughts and fears weren’t there – in fact I hadn’t even considered that I might feel anxious – I had forgotten all about them. This used to be a place that would fill me with anxiety – I would do it when I had to but I wouldn’t feel relaxed in the process. Suddenly a whole load of recent memories flooded into my mind of things that once caused me such anxiety that haven’t in the past weeks. I begun to question why hadn’t God just done this for me in the first place – just let me experience life without anxiety or fear. It says in the bible that Jesus came to set me free but fear and anxiety do not bring a sense of freedom – I had just tasted a feeling of freedom as I stood by my car; it certainly was nothing like the feeling of fear. It made me question whether I had been a true Christian this whole time if I hadn’t been set free from these fears; maybe I hadn’t had enough faith or prayed the right prayers. Fear had trapped me in a heavy iron cage but this feeling of freedom felt light a fluffy; like I really was flying high.
It was at this point of questioning that God placed the image of a bird cage in my mind. The beauty of being a bird is surely the freedom they must feel – flying wherever they choose. That same beauty is offered to us as Christians in the form of God’s peace – not a peace where everything around is perfect and lovely but a supernatural peace that brings calm into the very midst of the storms of this life. So why was God offering me a picture of a bird cage and not a bird flying freely? I thought of the scene above from Aladdin and knew exactly what God was saying.
Before our relationship, as humans, with God was broken in the garden of Eden we were like birds who were free; free to roam the beautiful place God has provided for us; free from any understanding of fear; free from death itself. As soon as the apple was eaten and our relationship with God was broken we were thrown into the cage of sin. Keeping us from the freedom we once had and the beauty of peace that came alongside it. Before Jesus we were locked in this cage only able to catch glimpses of this past time through the bars of the cage. When Jesus came and died for us he was the key that unlocked that cage and opened the door. The funny thing is that instead of flying out the door into our freedom we’ve remained inside the cage. In the clip Jasmine opens the door to the bird cage for the first time and leaves it open however no birds fly out – they all remain in the cage. Why?
- Some birds perhaps are so distracted by life in the cage – whether it’s food they are eating or the things they are doing that they didn’t even notice that the door had been opened. I can think of a few times in my own life where I have been so wrapped up in what I am doing or thinking that I have missed some amazing opportunities to live a free life.
- Some birds perhaps were simple too cosy – they were huddled with their friends; being served food without effort – the thought of leaving such a place seemed unnecessary. We too can often get comfortable and cosy in places and positions in life. I can remember before I had my second daughter how comfortable life had become with just one; why would I want to upset the nice balance I have at the moment with another child? I’m so glad now that I did not remain in that cosy place of a family of three because my 2nd beautiful daughter has just added such an extra treasure to my life!!
- Some birds perhaps were simply too scared – they had spent their whole lives in the cage although it was pretty rubbish at times it was what they knew; the thought of venturing into the unknown was just a step too far. We are creatures of habit and we, generally speaking, like the norm; the predictable – for most too much freedom can be hugely daunting. The negative “what if?” questions are a strong pull to keep us in the cage.
What happened next? Why did the birds then leave when Jasmine opens the doors for a second time? I like to think it’s because the one bird who had been taken out by Jasmine and petted had tasted a little bit of freedom. He went back in the cage and said “Listen up guys! I’ve just been outside and it’s amazing! I wasn’t completely free but I could tell that being out there was hugely better than being in here. If we get a chance to be free again we should definitely go for it!” The first group of birds – the distracted ones – were intrigued; the second group of birds – the cosy ones – asked questions and were convinced; the third group – the fearful ones – needed the most cohersion; they needed the reassurance that things are ok outside of the cage! The main bird must have done a pretty good job of convincing the others that life outside the cage was better. To successfully do this he had to experience both inside and outside the cage.
That’s what God was telling me; I am like that little bird; I spent time in my cage of fear – I know it well. When I became a Christian Jesus unlocked the cage and flung the door to it wide open but i didn’t leave it; sometimes it was because I was distracted; sometimes because I had made myself cosy in my cage; it was my home after all; often it was the step out to the unknown that put me off most of all.I had never realised that I had become both used to and comfortable with fear and anxiety – If I lived with them then they would surely help me make safe choices and positive choices for others. Quite simply I was wrong – fear and anxiety have done nothing for me other than keep me in a cage. I have had my time inside the cage and now I’m having my time out of the cage – the greatest gift is that I have the chance to help the others in the cage head out towards freedom.
The floating feeling I experienced today at the petrol station gave me that taste for freedom – a taste that says if I get put back in that cage again I will make sure that I don’t remain there forever!! There are still things that make me remain in my cage or fly back to it but now more than ever I am determined to be free of the cage and fly out towards the sun – as free as a bird!
This process has not been as simple and as quick as simply flying out the cage door; I can see how for a long while God has been showing me glimpses of life outside the cage – he’s been saying ‘take a peek out the door; see what’s beyond the bars of the cage; stretch a foot out and trust that I am here for you. A fear that I had from a very young age I have recently realised is no longer there – and hasn’t been for some time. Films have always been powerful to me some for good and some for bad; ET was one film that began a deep fear within me that trapped me for 20years – I became afraid of the dark! Other films and circumstances supported my fear and made the bars on my fear cage stronger and stronger; the light would need to be on in my room at night; I would have a system of turning on lights to go out to the bathroom so that there was always a light on for me to enter in to (this went on well into my married life); I was so grateful when I had a phone with a torch added to it; I would be scared to open my eyes at night to look into the darkness – just in case-if i kept my eyes shut I could imagine that there was light around me instead of the darkness.
Amazingly this is no longer a fear I have and I didn’t even notice the process of it’s removal!! God just placed me in situations where darkness was just a thing – not to be scared of – just a thing. We moved in to our church’s rectory for a time and during that time my husband was given the responsibility of locking and unlocking the church. This required walking outside through part of the graveyard into the church, switching OFF the lights;locking and walking back home – often completely in the dark -ALONE! So I was armed with my phone torch – but actually only as a physical aid not for comfort – just simply so I could see where I was going. What compelled me to do such a thing when I was so scared of the dark? Love is what! It sounds cheesey but I would say it truly was; both love for my husband and love for my church. I was doing it some nights so that my husband got a break from his responsibility; some nights I was doing it so I could have an opportunity to pray in the church for my special village and the people within it. My focus wasn’t on my fear but instead on love. This is what makes fear become less of an issue.
I don’t know about you but I want to be made perfect in love! Are you ready to be the bird who tastes freedom? The door has been opened for you to fly free – there’s a whole new world out there waiting for you.