Friday, April 11, 2008

Behind Bars

Apparently Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean has been apprehended in Morelia, Mexico. He is accused of murdering pregnant Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach near Camp LeJeune, NC. Her partially burned corpse was discovered in a grave in Laurean's backyard in January. It's a grisly story! If he is guilty, he deserves to spend the rest of his life behind bars. But if Cpl. Laurean is guilty, it is also true that he brought his life behind bars on himself.

Our culture is peopled by many who spend their life behind bars - not jail bars but bars made of something beside steel. These bars keep people from connecting with others in meaningful ways. Some of these "bars" are physical like being hearing impaired or blind or not having one's legs due to an accident. Some of these "bars" are mental and emotional where some misfunction or pattern of life has "crippled" a person and left them in some dark "prison." Some of these "bars" are spiritual. In fact, there is probably a spiritual component in every "bar."

What are these spiritual "bars" that can imprison a person for life? What about worry or depression? What about a disconnect with understanding God's love? What about the inability to receive and live in the great good news of God's love and forgiveness? All of these spiritual "bars" are stronger than steel in holding a person captive!

Sometimes these "bars" are put in place by bad choices or abuse or neglect. The cause isn't nearly as significant as is the sure reality of the hope of restoration, of freedom!

When they were behind bars in one of the most horrible places on earth, Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie found that even there God was with them. Corrie ten Boom writes in The Hiding Place that even at Ravensbruck, "There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still."

It is in the deep pits of life that hope seems gone. These deep pits - regardless of the particular pit one is mired in - are a far greater prison than the one Cpl. Laurean may face. There is only one way out: for God's restoring grace to come and shine into the darkness of life bringing hope, peace and love! God's restoration doesn't appear in a vacuum. God sends His servants to be agents of His grace and restoration bringing love and light where there is only despair and hopelessness.

This freeing phenomenon happens only when God has already worked His restoration in hearts who are in turn willing to be used by God to reach out to others at their point of need. It isn't easy to walk through terrible physical, emotional, mental or spiritual pain with another person! Doing so may test us in ways we could never have imagined, but God calls His people whose hearts have experienced God's loving restoration to pass that restoration on to others. It's a chain reaction - one heart at a time!

I don't know what the future holds for Cpl. Laurean. Apparently he doesn't either as the news article of his capture I read described his fear. What I do know is that even for Cpl. Laurean there is hope if God is part of the restoration process!

Corrie ten Boom's wisdom rings in my own heart as well, "There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still." However, sometimes God calls you and me to be the hands that reach into that pit and offer a loving ray of hope and help! That's the restoration process God's way! AND that's exactly why there's a new church gathering in the South Hills of Pittsburgh called "A Restoration Church."

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