Friday, 23 April 2021

Locked down but feeling liberated

I AM writing this a couple of days after our Prime Minister announced England’s third lockdown since the outbreak of
covid-19.

Once again, we find ourselves imprisoned — being told to stay at home apart for some very specific exceptions.

For some, it means having to juggle home-schooling alongside everything else we’d normally do. For others, it brings more time to try to fill as we’re not able to occupy ourselves with our usual routines.

For many years the majority of us here in the UK have been used to having our freedom; to being able to choose what we want to do and when we want to do it, at least to some extent.

With the increase over recent decades in leisure time, to suddenly find ourselves boxed in, or with even more free time, yet without the means or opportunity to fill it as we would like, can feel really tough.

Added to this are the many other ways our freedom has been curtailed, perhaps as a result of economic hardship or through the anxiety that coronavirus has brought upon us.

Restrictions and concerns for ourselves, or our loved ones, are very real. Lockdown is not an easy place to be.

However, throughout history, many have found periods of restrictedness to actually be liberating. One of the most popular books of all time was written during a time of imprisonment — a more severe lockdown than anything most of us will have experienced.

First published towards the end of the 17th century, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress has never been out of print. A work of fiction, but one that has touched a chord with thousands over the years.

It tells of a man who was in spiritual anguish, yet who embarked upon a life-long journey towards the freedom he so sought. As he journeyed through this life, he often experienced a foretaste of that freedom, even though he encountered all manner of obstacles and trials, some of which resulted in periods of great battling of the soul.

Of course, it ends well with the man eventually entering an eternal state of peace and freedom.

The book is an allegory picturing the Christian life, yet it draws on both Bunyan’s own experience as well as that of countless others over the centuries, such as Paul, one of the writers of the New Testament.

A man who, on more than one occasion, found himself in chains for his faith in Jesus Christ. Imprisoned, yet he knew a sense of liberty and could write: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.”

Still today, many around our world also know this sense of contentedness despite their difficulties. It’s the difference that knowing Jesus Christ can make, even in the present lockdown, and the hope that he gives for an eternal future.

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