While reading this second chapter of Henri Nouwen’s “Letters to Marc About Jesus”, I was struck by the theme of freedom. Two moments came to my mind.
When I was 11, my parents took my sisters and me on a European vacation that included time behind the Iron Curtain. Going through “Checkpoint Charlie”, the Wall, the buildings of East Berlin still marked with the spray of the bullets of war, and a border crossing into Czechoslovakia where police boarded our bus and zealously checked our passports, left an impression on me that is still as vivid today as it was many years ago. When we finally crossed over from Czechoslovakia into Austria, the forty or so on the bus broke into a spirited chorus of “God Bless America”. I never thought of it as a sign of our moral or nationalistic superiority; but, rather an emotional release of how important the power of freedom.
Many years later in the 90’s, I was on pilgrimage with friends in Israel/Palestine. On this particular trip, we were fortunate to travel to a Palestinian Refugee camp in the West Bank, a short drive from Bethlehem. This was not your typical “gated community” that you might find on the California or North Carolina coast. These were men, women and children sectioned off and “caged” because of their race and nationality. The roads were filled with deep and dangerous potholes, the United Nations flag flying atop a checkpoint, and the home small and poorly made.
In the midst of that chaos, was a family that offered American pilgrims a glimpse of Middle Eastern hospitality. In the midst of all the pain and struggle was a father who was truly free and spoke confidently of his Christian faith and hope in a future where Palestinians and Israelis lived in peace. I never forgot him because it seemed to me that the easy way out would be to hate, to fight, and to rebel against the powers and principalities of this world. Instead, in this constricted environment was a family who was freer than I was because of their tremendous faith in a liberating God. A God who even in the darkest and cruelest of man-made detention could find a way to bring light and hope.
What experiences have you had, good reader, with people you have met on this earthly pilgrimage who were truly free?
I look forward to hearing about them in these posts.
Blessings to you - Brian
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You are entitled to your opinion as much as the next person is entitled to their opinion. These discussions over the course of the next seven weeks are for our mutual enjoyment and benefit. You may disagree – but you must do so in a spirit of love and common understanding. If I should discern that a post is “attacking” in nature or derogatory, I will pull it from the site. Your assistance and understanding is gratefully appreciated!