History or Fantasy

As a young boy I can remember the prison (New Westminster Penitentiary) that stood like a castle on the other side of the Fraser River. Often my family and I drove by it on our way to nearby places. To say the least this edifice always intrigued me.

When I was in my early twenties they shut it down. At the time there was so much curiosity within the community that the government gave everyone an opportunity to see the inside before they tore it down. There was no question about whether or not I was going to spend time in this prison. So, at the first opportunity I was on the doorstep waiting my turn to go inside. 

I remember the long rows of cells with graffiti everywhere. The central exercise court and TV area for the prisoners. We got to see the activity areas where some prisoners were given training and others were on work programs. Finally, we reached the end of the tour where we were shown examples of the weaponry confiscated over time. To say the least the image of a castle was no longer in my mind. The illusion was gone replaced by the reality. 

I love reading history books. Probably why I wanted to visit the prison. Also one of the reasons why I enjoy reading the Bible. Yet there are times when I find a history book that gets me caught up in the fantasy of the time period. For instance, as I am reading a book on Canadian history I may picture in my mind, sitting in a train car, enjoying a cup of coffee, looking out the train window at the awesome prairie hills. However, I seldom picture myself doing the hard labour required to lay the train tracks. 

Sometimes while reading scripture I get caught up in the fantasy rather than the reality of a passage. It is hard to picture oneself having your shirt ripped off, beaten, jailed and shackled. It is easier for me to see myself praying and singing. I have to remind myself that Paul and Silas were not living in any fantasy. They were living the reality of the gospel. They demonstrated the strength of their faith through their words and actions. What is your reality? How do you choose to respond to that reality?

“A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!” The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.” Acts of the Apostles 16:22-34 NLT

Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. It is the belief that God will do what is right. Max Lucado

The battle against the dark one, and the clinging to the right one, is what my life is about. Johnny Cash

All your life, you will be faced with a choice. You can choose love or hate…I choose love. Johnny Cash

Michael Farren: Prisoners