For my Mom’s 70th birthday, my sister and I took her to Bardstown, Kentucky to see the Stephen Foster musical, “My Old Kentucky Home.” We stayed in a bed and breakfast that had been the county jail for many decades. It was a whimsical evening and one we will never forget. The inn keeper sold some souvenirs: a key ring with “Jailer’s Inn” inscribed on it and t-shirts with hands wrapped around cell bars that read, “I spent my time in the old county jail.” I had to have these items, so I purchased them on our way out. As we left, the “jailer/inn keeper” quipped, “If you come to stay with us again, you’ll be a repeat offender.”
I returned to Colorado with my reminder key ring and t-shirt in hand. The key was added to my keyring with my mail box, car, and house keys. But the t-shirt was another story. I realized that I couldn’t wear it anywhere. I was on staff at a church, so it wasn’t appropriate work apparel. I am known in the community, so I thought it might not be a great witness to those I came in contact with to wear it around town. So with no other alternative, the t-shirt hung in my closet, hidden from the world.
Several months later, I realized that this t-shirt had a greater message for me. So I pulled it out and it is now hanging in my closet where I can see it everyday. This t-shirt reminds me that I was once held in bondage by my sinful nature. I had been confined within the four small walls of that prison cell where God could not use me. And I knew that I didn’t have to be held in that bondage any longer. I could break free. Yes, a prison escape! Free to live a life of freedom without condemnation. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Without the chains and prison bars, I am no longer burdened. What a weight is lifted when we can walk away from that prison cell.
We also have the promise from Jesus in John 8:34-36. “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” How thankful I am for Jesus, the Son and what He has done in my life. The gift of freedom is more precious than ever each time I remember the sacrifice of my Savior. We no longer need to be slaves to sin. He has set us free.
Combined with the key, the t-shirt has a greater message. The key can unlock the prison doors. The prison doors of my sinful nature can be thrown open because Jesus has given me the key to do so. I no longer have to live in that prison cell. I can be free!
Oh, I occasionally go back to the jailhouse of bondage, and in despair ask God for forgiveness. And when I see my key and my t-shirt, I know the life I’m intended to live. I don’t want to hear the words of the jailer, “You are a repeat offender” ever again. I can live, not as a captive, but as a free woman living life abundantly.
Grace and peace be yours in abundance,