orange croc­o­diles and bat caves

Where are you right now as you read these words? Are you sitting on a train? Are you walking home in the peace of summer wind or in the drenching torrential rain? But these are physical locations. Where are you in life? Where is your heart? Does your mind explore these words while your heart gently sorrows? Today we are speaking about prisons and caves and these things may not be applicable today but keep in mind them for tomorrow. For tomorrow you may find yourself trapped in the suffocating dark like many do today. It might be an addiction or love of money. It may be a bad relationship. Some people begin by trying to tolerate their prison. Some try to think their way out of it by planning their escape like a character on prison break. If they escape, they leave the prison to discover that the world outside is itself a prison. It is impossible to be free of the devil by the power of the devil Matthew 12:24. And so many of us are merely traveling from prison to prison. We exchange one addiction for another. On overeater becomes a cigarrette smoker. A porn addict becomes a thrill seeker. Is there a way out?

Orange in the dark

Let me introduce you to a species of dwarf crocodile in Gabon known as Osteolaemus tetraspis. [[]] Now to western ears, this African name can be hard to pronounce. So let’s call him Gollum for dwarf … I mean for short. Now Gollum is smaller than his brother crocodiles but this is not really a problem. His small size makes him nimble and able fit between the tiny crevices that lead into caves. Now in these cave, he learns to feast on apparently juicy bats. Gollum is young and strong and able to get into any cave he wants. He eats and eats and eats. But Gollum doesn’t notice that as he crawls and chases the bats, his skin reacts with the bat poop so that it turns more and more orange. He doesn’t notice, as he gorges on bat, that he is getting bigger and bigger till eventually he is trapped and can no longer escape the cave or move to another.

Fortunately, Gollum has a younger friend named Tetra who hears him screaming and shouting at the mouth of the cave, “Can anyone hear me!” Tetra thinks and brilliantly asks him to stick his tail through the opening. Tetra then begins to pull with all of her strength trying to yank him out of the cave. But she can’t. Gollum is just too big. Only his tail can taste the air of freedom. He is too big and cannot fit. He can’t escape. Tetra despairs. Nothing she does will work. And so she goes away and reads Ephesians, a letter written by one prisoner to other prisoners. When she gets to chapter 4, she cannot get past verse 1. “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,”

Here we have a man Paul who is urging people to walk as he has walked. And yet, it is clear that his walk lead him into a Roman prison. So how can any prisoner urge others to follow him into prison?! She does not see how this verse will help her friend Gollum. So she thinks and prays a little more and realizes that something about Paul must be different. While others are wisely? busy trying to escape from prison and difficulty, Paul is fervently urging others to walk like him into prison. Is he a devil of a man? Is he miserable and just wants company? But the Holy Spirit helps her to think another thought. Freedom is not found by escaping prison. Freedom is only found by those who choose the right prison. She extrapolates (cause you know African crocodiles are good at math), that she should stop trying to help Gollum escape. Instead, she should help Gollum become free by helping him find the right prison.

A Prisoner Of Christ

Paul, a man full of spiritual gifts, a well trained lawyer, talked his way into a Roman prison Acts 26:31-32. Who had so captured Paul that despite the urging of his friends, he desired to go to prison Acts 21:9-14? Paul reveals his Captor in Ephesians 4:8. “This is why it says: ‘When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.’” Paul’s Captor, The Warden of his prison is different. Earthly wardens take everything away from you. Jesus, our Warden, gives us gifts. In earthly prison’s you experience hell while captives of Jesus Christ experience heaven even while on earth. Earthly captives have been locked away because of the evil they did. Jesus Locks us in His Embrace so that we may be free of all bitterness and rage and free to be kind, loving and compassionate Ephesians 4:31-32.

Therefore, the book of Ephesians, is written by a prisoner of Christ who became a prisoner for Christ. It is clear then that the prison depends not on the walls and bars but upon the nature of the man within them. Paul’s nature had been so changed that prison was no longer to be feared. Like his Lord, he was nimble enough to go in and find pasture John 10:9. And so for the rest of his letter, Paul reminds the Ephesians of their nature as prisoners of Christ and fervently urges his brothers and sisters to stop eating bats. Walk, live, think in the manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.

And so I suppose this is the answer Tetra took back to Gollum. “Stop eating bats.” So obvious yet so profound. If he stops eating the bats, if he relinquishes his appetite for bats, then he will lose weight and be able to find his way out of the cave. So also for you and for me. Like Gollum, We find ourselves trapped in earthly prisons because we are unwilling to stop eating bats; unwilling to stop committing sin. So long as we are unwilling to become and remain captives of Jesus Christ, then we shall remain captives of the devil in the world. Let us then believe in Jesus and begin to obey Him. Let us surrender to Him and become His captives so that we might be free indeed. Only the captive of the Son is set free.

But you may say to me, “Life is not as simple as it is for Gollum”. This is true. Perhaps there are consequences and scars from the many prisons you have traversed. It is true that even if you leave the cave, you may remain crippled. Perhaps you are in prison, in debt and the law mandates that you pay back what you owe. Well Ephesians 4:1 also instructs you in freedom. Remember always that the prison is not the walls or the amount of money or the body you have damaged. The prison is you. The prison is your nature. The moment you allow Jesus to change you, the walls and bars become transformed into a home. Hence Paul was glad to go to prison. He knew that his Lord was there. For is that not what Jesus did? Did He not, like his father king David, invite cripples and enemies to eat at His Table 2 Samuel 9:7,10-13, Psalms 23:5? Did He not come down to transform and teach men so that their bodies become temples for God; so that their prisons could become eternally comforting homes?

“… for from the first day that you set your heart to under­stand and hum­bled your­self before your God, your words have been heard …”
- Daniel 10:12

Wanna reach out and ask me some ques­tions? Or do you want clar­i­fi­ca­tion on some­thing writ­ten here? If so, write me a let­ter. I’d love to hear from you and I’ll respond. I bet your hon­est ques­tion will pro­duce insights that will ben­e­fit other read­ers.