Letters Of Freedom
by: Patricia Lefler
A morning fog lifted above the tree lines. December clouds would bring more rain, but I was about to face a different kind of storm. Out of nowhere, blue lights flashed behind my vehicle. I thought it was for something I had done. Nothing seemed real anymore.
From that moment forward, every page of my future began to rip out of me and blow onto unfamiliar ground.
I often felt like the protagonist in two ambiguous stories – One ending: one beginning.
Life was a mixed bag of confusing messages that played in my mind like riddles. People thought I lost touch with reality. I think they were right.
I was held in a solitary confinement prison cell for 9-months.
My senses were so confused. “Why do I only see the color white in a world of dark? How come my bed is hard? Has it always felt this cold?”, were questions with obvious answers, but I couldn’t digest or normalize anything. Not the sounds of metal sliding and slamming. Not the taste of water sipped from the top of a toilet. Not the way time existed – passing only in seconds, and minutes, and hours between meals.
Solitude was excruciating. For 2-months I turned ministry people away, convinced they were sent by prosecutors. On the verge of losing my mind, I finally welcomed a woman one night who passed a small “Gideon’s” Bible through an opening in my cell’s door.
Not that I intended to read it, I just wanted company. Anger was still a constant companion while awaiting trial, but there was also an irresistible feeling of hope I couldn’t ignore. Somehow, I transcended the despairing reality of my circumstances and understood I had to keep going … no matter what.
My poor attitude was strengthened by a desire to keep my enemies from knowing they got the best of me.
Every month my Gideon friend returned for a visit. In her absence, I sent letters that I’m certain were more for me than anyone. God spoke to me through my writing, in ways I could understand.
Inside, I was slowly accepting where I was. In fact, being that low is how I came to look up. I did read the Bible, albeit a larger version. And It was not cliché. God used that time to teach me about the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, utilizing what was available - My ability to read and write, a broken spirit, and a quiet place where it was time to let God get the best of me.
I was told stories about writers from Biblical days who were also prisoners.
While I appreciated my new friend’s efforts to encourage, I saw a big difference between my situation and prisoner’s in the Bible. They were suffering for teaching the gospel and standing for Christ. I, on the other hand, had to fall before I could see Him. I suppose, however, you could make a similar argument about Paul, Author of the Prison Epistles and other Books in the Bible. He literally fell (from his horse) and was blinded by Christ on his way to Damascus. (Acts 9:4) Under Roman law, Paul was authorized to persecute Christians. Until his “fall”, he couldn’t recognize who Jesus was. Losing his sight in order to find it was a paradox I related to. Until I was locked in a small cell, I had no understanding of true freedom.
“It is for freedom that Christ set us free...” (Paul, Galatians 5:1)
Eleven years have passed since my Christian journey began. Progress has been slower than the ticking of time in solitary confinement.
I fall; I stand … then move a little. Having restrictions on my life for many years, I have struggled with freedom. In these days, however, I’m reminded of what Paul meant.
Whether we’re locked in concrete cells or houses, we better know we’re free.
How else can we stand firm?
During this year’s worldwide pandemic, the Lord showed me I have more freedom than I thought … and I needed the reminder.
Living alone, I had a free and fearless spirit. I love all freedom! Still, after taking time to study up on Paul’s prison letters again, I’m reminded that:
Any freedom not including Christ will always have too many restrictions.
Paul was a prisoner for the cause of Christ, but he did not live a prisoner’s story. He knew he was free, and Paul wrote so we could live free, too.
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith …” (Hebrews 12:2)
When I was a young woman, people would tell me to write my story. I loved writing, but there was nothing novel to say about that life. I spent most of my adulthood chasing a triumphant conclusion, dreaming of being better than where I came from. I’m certain that if Paul could have spoken to that younger me, he’d have wanted her to know the “triumphant conclusion” has already been written. And, as I discovered 11-years ago:
The “pages of my future” were never meant to be filled by myself.
My prison experience has served a unique purpose, just as Paul’s did. Thankfully, we’re not all placed in a position like he was, but we all serve the same God - Author of our story and foundation of our liberty.
Through Paul’s letters we can have his faith and confidence to live a life of freedom.
Paul inspired me most by how he didn’t live. Nothing in the way he spoke indicated he was a prisoner to men. In fact, he only referred to himself as a “prisoner of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:1, Philemon 1:1) In his final years, Paul was thrown into a subterranean prison, basically a sewage system. He was treated like a common criminal … chained, disgraced, and abandoned by friends.
Yet, he wrote...
Drenched in waste.
He wrote his final letter. (2 Timothy)
It was a message to endure and accept our share of suffering, which he did.
Paul must have been so weak and lonely at times,
...but he wrote.
Inspired by God...
Paul never focused on his own story...
He thought of ours...
With hands chained, Paul wrote to leave us our letters of freedom.
Meet My Friend...
Patricia Lefler currently resides in Kingsport, Tennessee. where she operates her own small Environmental Pest and Land Management business. She is a published writer and is currently working on her first novel. More than anything else,
Patricia hopes her greatest accomplishment in life will always be that she stood up more times than she has fallen.