By Alethea Gaddis
Just the mere mention of the word "shackle" conjures up for me, images of pain, bondage, and imprisonment. My thoughts turn to the diaspora, and my ancestors who were rustled like livestock, herded and whipped, then chained together for months in the dark bowels of a dirty disease ridden cargo ship. I also think of the incarcerated locked in a gloomy prison cell, doomed for an extended period of time, perhaps accused and convicted of a crime they did not even commit. The entertainment industry creates intriguing stories and images of human beings, who find themselves classified as a prisoner bound with others by chains and shackles; slaves likewise, in a chain gang, depicted performing back-breaking labor under the harsh and accusing eye of an oppressor.
I have purposefully attempted to coax you to think about the sense of hopelessness an individual in bondage experiences. Can you agree that such confinement is dreadful? I enjoy relaxing in a theatre or in the comfort of my home, eating popcorn and watching a suspense-filled gangster, or prison story. During those times it is entertainment, but may I invite you into my world for a moment?
While I am grateful to have been spared the Middle Passage, slavery and prison, I realize there are times when I imprison my own self in mind and spirit.
While I am grateful to have been spared the Middle Passage, slavery and prison, I realize there are times when I imprison my own self in mind and spirit. Yes. Bound by fear. Hobbled by failure. Shackled by worry. See, I tend to ponder the weighty affairs of life. Musing about decisions made and opportunities lost can become a self-inflicted arrest. During those times, I find myself making futile and feeble attempts at fixing what may be broken; I try to untangle a web or make sense out of some senseless and unexplainable situation. The truth is, this earthen vessel does not possess the resources nor the physical or mental capacity to do so.
The end of the story is not doom and gloom though. I am reminded that I do have at my disposal, a tool that can lose the shackles. There is a manual, divinely written and inspired by God that offers me a key to removing the chains. I become free when I make music out of my shackles. I make music when I ponder the things that concern me, and then in song, praise God. Clinging chains make noise, but my joyful noise unto the Lord is melodic sets me free!
Remember this the next time you are tempted to give in to the bondage caused by worry and fear: When you praise Him things will happen! The situation will change, or you may begin to view your case differently. Your joy will return and you will regain the strength to press on.