My wife and I live in a 3rd floor flat. This morning as we walked down the stairwell, we heard the noise of desperately flapping wings. A little weaverbird was trapped behind a closed window pushing with its beak against the glass, trying with all its might to open the window and escape. But all her efforts were in vain. Not wanting to get too close to the bird (which probably would have sent the already terrified creature into cardiac arrest), we opened a nearby window.
I’m not sure what the attraction was for the weaver to fly into that stairwell in the first place. Likely, she came in through the gate at the bottom of the stairs. I’m no good at puzzles, but even I could see the solution. Freedom was as close as that slotted gate through which the weaver apparently had entered. To get out, she just needed to turn around and fly back to where she got in.
All around us are people just like that weaver. They once flew free, but somewhere they took a wrong turn. Now they are trapped behind the glass window of addictions. They push against the thick panes of alcoholism, drugs, gambling, or pornography. The longer they’re trapped, the more desperate they become. Through the window, they see the freedom they once knew and they long to enjoy it once more. But to get out, we too must retrace our steps to where we got in. To go forward, first we must go back.
Scripture has a lot to say about repentance, this change of mind and heart that is a prerequisite for freedom. Repentance is letting God turn us around and head us in the opposite direction. In Acts 3, God used Peter as the divine instrument of healing for a man crippled since birth, a man who used to sit begging at the Temple gate (see Acts 3:1-10). Now as the restored man jumped for joy, a crowd gathered out of curiosity. What would Peter say?
- It wasn’t me or my companion, John, who did this. It was Jesus (v. 16).
- Turn to God (v. 19).
Repent then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (Acts 3:19, NIV).
I suspect there were a lot of people listening to Peter that day who were every bit as trapped spiritually as that crippled man had been physically. Just as Jesus freed the man physically, he was able to free the crowd spiritually. But there was something they needed to do first. They needed to repent, to be willing to let a loving and powerful God turn them away from their sinful habits and attitudes and lead them in a new and better direction.
It takes humility to admit that we’re trapped, that the only way forward is to go back. Too proud to ask for help, like the weaver, we keep pushing desperately against the window pane, thinking we’re strong enough on our own to escape some other way. Freedom only begins when we admit we that we’re powerless to solve our problem alone.
Peter’s advice to the crowd that day is the advice we need now. God longs to free us from our sin, from the dead end of our addictions. With Jesus by our side, let’s retrace our steps and head in the opposite direction. Freedom is glorious, and it’s closer than we think.
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