Here it is, Sunday again. Time for stories from the past. Last week we finished my autobio. I don’t remember where I started in on that, so am starting over at the beginning. May it be edifyiing for you. If you’ve already read this, feel free to skip Sundays.
The cold steel of the gun barrel pressed into my temple as the man looked me in the eyes. He waited to let tension build before saying coolly, “I could shoot you right now and no one would ever know!”
I hesitated, sweating in the uncertainty. The steel pressed harder, insisting on an answer. Fumbling for words, I mumbled, “Well, I guess you’re right!”
The young policeman, satisfied with my submissive answer, lowered his pistol and put it back in his holster. His smile showed his confidence that his threat would make me more willing to cooperate.
The other plainclothes men gathered around me again, putting on the pressure of close presence, hoping for a useful confession. But to their disappointment, they only got more of the truth.
By 3 am they’d had enough and sent me back to the holding cell deep in the bowels of the National Police Headquarters.
I was relieved that they hadn’t tortured me the way they had the local prisoners, with beatings, electric shocks, handcuffing them to overhead pipes and leaving them to hang there–all means of getting a person to confess to whatever was demanded.
As we came to the deepest level in the building, I was handed over to the policeman in charge of prisoners; he turned the key in the lock of my cell, swung open the door and pushed me in. After carefully locking the door behind me, he turned and walked away, his footsteps echoing in the cavernous hallway.
I looked around the bare cell. The other ten prisoners were all lying on their backs on the cold concrete floor. Each had a hand over his face, trying to shade his eyes from the ever-present glare of the bare light bulbs, hoping to get some sleep before the next interrogation and maybe torture.
I was too wide-awake to think about sleep–not after the pressure and adrenaline of the last hours of questioning. Crossing to the far side of the cell, I sat down on the concrete floor with my back against the wall. Reaching behind the cold radiator, I retrieved a pen and the lining from a cigarette pack I’d gotten from other prisoners. Propping up my knees to form a makeshift desk, I began to write.
“Sept 29, 1988. Here I am again, a prisoner in a Middle East jail cell because I belong to Jesus. Thank you for the privilege of suffering difficulties for your Name, Lord.
“It is good to know that you will use this trouble in some way for the furtherance of your Kingdom, although at the moment I can’t see how.
“It is good to remember that you are the One who is actually in control here. As your Word declares in Psalm 146:7, ‘The LORD sets prisoners free….” So I praise you now that at the right time you will bring me out into freedom, whether by a quick, rightful release, or after a long prison term, or by death. I thank you now for whatever will happen, for you know best.
This time spent in jail was not my first experience with imprisonment: I was actually born in a prison cell, an internal one.
My entrance into this world involved three characteristics that held me prisoner for many years. My mother related that near the end of her pregnancy with me, she was getting impatient with the process and wondered if I’d ever make my entrance into the world. This same impatience seems to have been impregnated into my nature.
Hoping to speed things up, Mom and her sister went for a walk. After slowly making their way down the road, they went through a gate into a large field and walked sedately across the short-cropped grass. As they came over a rise, there before them was a herd of cows grazing in the sun. The cattle, sensing a presence, looked up at the two strangers on the hill who had invaded their domain.
One cow, curious about these creatures, began to walk up towards them and the others followed. My mother, being a city girl did not know about the curiosity of cows and found their approach alarming.
“Look, they are coming to get us!” she cried to her sister, “Let’s run for it!” There was the manifestation of my second negative quality: insecurity.
They turned and ran back over the ridge, taking the shortest route to the barbed wire fence. Since there was no gate there, they crawled under it and walked home as fast as they could.
Mom said that the walk may not have helped, but the run seemed to. I arrived the next day, May 31, 1946, in a hospital in Westerly, Rhode Island.
My father said my timing was perfect, as the hospital rates went up 30% the next day. There was my third negative quality, an over-concern about money that was branded into my Scottish soul.
I did not have to learn these qualities; they were just there in me from the beginning. Impatience led me to moving too fast, always wanting to get more done, to move on to the next thing, which often resulted in mistakes, frustration and more impatience.
Insecurity, uncertainty and fear also hounded me. I sensed that most things were out of my control and did not like the uncertainty this brought.
And I was tight with money, both with myself and with my family, unnecessarily denying myself, and them the pleasure of many things. But this was really only the manifestation of a deeper value, the desire to be efficient, to be more efficient than anyone else.
I would try to do at least 10 errands on one outing, and refused to go if I could only get one thing done. Efficiency ruled, not wisdom, love or grace, and in worshiping efficiency, I tended to run over people.
These negative characteristics became the first bars in the prison cell of my soul, a sad picture of slavery to negatives.
God, however, had a different view of my imprisonment. He saw this bleak situation as one of great opportunity, knowing that these weaknesses in my character were just the tools He needed to draw me to Himself.
His plan was to ensnare me in my weaknesses, getting my attention so He could eventually free me from this cage. He would pursue me from Connecticut to a snowy windswept Island off the coast of Siberia. From there he took me to Europe, back to America and eventually to the Middle East and Central Asia. In each adventure He would bring new freedom into my life. He is in the business of setting us free, and He is really good at it!