Seth Ethan Carey
"Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were unfastened." - Acts 16:26
This is a true story.
It is a beautiful day Pennsylvania. The morning sun shines on hills and meadows and the pastures of ancestral Amish farmlands. The air is still crisp, but the snow has melted to reveal newborn blades of green grass, the first harbingers of spring.
These are crushed underneath the spinning tires of an '86 Chevy Nova, which is careening off of Interstate 80 and onto the grass along the side of the road. The driver quickly recovers and steers his vehicle back onto the pavement, but this is not the first such mishap of the day. An open bottle of cheap Kentucky bourbon is nestled in the passenger seat, a wretched traveling companion if ever there was one. You will not be surprised to learn that the intoxicated operator of this vehicle is about to be pulled over by the police for drunk driving and tossed into a cell at the local county jail. What will surprise you, however, is his bizarre method of escape.
Shortly after being arrested, he is going to declare political sovereignty from the State of Pennsylvania and from the United States of America. He is going to insist that he is a country unto himself, and therefore not subject to our nation's laws. He is going to tell the police, his lawyer, the judge, and anyone else who cares to listen, that he does not even live in Pennsylvania. Rather, according to his statement, he lives inside himself.
It's a brilliant legal defense, if an ineffective one; but it also reminds me how often we all live inside ourselves, adrift from the rest of the world, even cut off from God and from those we love most. Many of us are trapped behind the barricades of work, of our clever and flimsy excuses, of the bottle. Maybe it's easier that way; but it's also a lonely existence.
What would it take to escape from that prison?
Everlasting God, give us the courage to escape from the prisons of our own design. Amen
Seth Ethan Carey is the Executive Associate Minister at the First Congregational Church of Glen Ellyn, Glen Ellyn, Illinois.