“Mom, you need to call Marcine. She’s in some kind of trouble.” I recognized it to be Michael who had left the message on my phone. I promptly called the woman. (Marcine is a pseudonym.)
She was crying so that I could hardly understand her. “What’s wrong? What’s wrong, Marcine?”
I could not understand her words, and pressed her to speak more plainly. “Tell me. Tell me what is wrong.”
At last I could understand her and knew what needed to be done. We worked through the necessary details so that finally we were all at the church–Jerry, Marcine and I. She sobbed and trembled as she told us the story, a story whose details I cannot divulge, but whose details really do not matter, and whose knowing or not knowing changes not at all the impact of the tale. For the story is identical. The story is unchanged. The story is of sin and fallen man and wretched ugliness; the ugliness of sin; the hopelessness of life without Jesus Christ.
We sat in the lobby of the church as she sobbed and eked out the words–words which later we found to be lacking in veracity and completeness. “I need a cigarette,” at one point she said.
“Well you know we can’t help you with that, Marcine,” I said.
“I know. I know…I have one cigarette; the rest are at the house. I”ll smoke half of it.” We watched as from her purse she drew a leather holder, clicked it open and removed the single cigarette. Through the glass that stretches across the front of the church we saw her walk across the blacktop area, and respecting our plea with our CIP students not to smoke on our property, she trudged into the rocky lot next to ours. She slumped, then sat flat among the scattered stone and sand. She lighted half a cigarette. My aching heart bled.
We took her into the sanctuary after she had smoked, seating her on the edge of the platform; she wept and sobbed. Gently we talked with her; inquired and soothed, then I knelt beside her and grasped her hand as she bent forward into a position of black despair.
“Do you know how to pray, Marcine?” Jerry asked.
“Yes.” And so…we prayed and wept and mourned.
Later she called her probation officer, who advised her to call the police and surrender herself. Marcine wanted to do it at home, but just as she positioned herself in her friend’s car for the ride home, two police cars pulled onto our parking lot…and then after more weeping and hugging and whispering words of courage into her ears, the officers handcuffed her and led her away.
I’ve written before, and no doubt will do so again, concerning the ghastly and mistaken thought that serving God and abiding by His law is a form of bondage. Bondage, you say? Bondage it is to live in a holy and godly way? Bondage to refrain from stealing and promiscuity and drunken brawls and hideous addiction? Bondage, you claim? Bondage to dress in a modest way, to erect a family altar, to read often the Word of God? Bondage to attend church, to give generously, to minister to the less fortunate, to be kind and caring? This is bondage? No friend, let me tell you of bondage.
“I wonder if they might have a cigarette,” Marcine said at one point yesterday, as she stood looking across the street where two men stood on a parking lot.
“They tried to force me to join a gang,” Eric told my husband a few minutes ago. Eric received the Holy Ghost four weeks ago, and the next day had to go to jail. He was released only yesterday.
“There was every kind of drug you can imagine in the jail,” Eric continued.
“How do they get it in there?” Jerry asked.
“Pastor…by hiding it in body orifices.”
“The gang leaders tried to force me to shave my head,” Eric said.
“We were introduced to hard drugs by our parents,” the trio told Michael. One at 12, one at 13, one at 14.
“My mother left us when I was a child to go live with a lesbian,” said one of our CIP students who looks about 13, but who is actually 19. “I’ve been to about 30 psychologists and psychiatrists,” he added. He pled with me as I enrolled him some months ago. “I have to smoke marijuana. It’s the only thing that calms me down.”
“Have you been drinking?” Michael asked the student as he attempted to enter the class. “No, but she has,” he said, pointing to his female companion.
“I’m sorry, but she can’t be here,” Michael explained.
“Okay, I understand,” said the student, and he led his staggering friend away and seated her in his truck on the parking lot.
Relapse, jail time again. Prison. Visiting hours, books, magazines.
I sat in a court room and watched one of our students–shackled hand and foot–as she shuffled to her spot.
Excuses, embarrassment, cries, troubled children, community service. High on drugs, dropped from class, re-enrolled. Teeth rotted from methamphetamine. Emergency dental calls. Pain. Disappearance. Broken promises. Fines. Failure to pay. Failure to appear. License revoked. Eight siblings–all different fathers. Violations. Probation officer. Judges. Chains. Bars. Cigarettes, beer, cheap wine, hard liquor. Stagger. Divorce, mistrust, broken windows, unmarried mother unmarried daughter–both pregnant–due two months apart. Emergency room visits, stomach pumps, prescription pills. Little boy killed by drunk driver, his father and friend nearly killed, still having surgeries, not able to work. Sleep into the afternoon. Violated. Nightmares. Sleeping pills.
Speak not to me of bondage associated with serving Jesus Christ my Lord. Say no such thing to me. For it is only through Jesus that Freedom and Peace can envelop the human soul, can straighten the twisted life, can right dreadful wrongs, and can apply the sweet balm of Gilead.
I’ve told of yesterday’s grisly afternoon at Christ Alive. Compare it please with yesterday’s evening Bible study where we worshipped, prayed for friends and relatives, rejoiced that in the past few hours Eric had been released from jail and that he was eager to be in church Sunday, studied God’s word, sang a great hymn of the Church and laughed; where new converts testified, finally having to declare they just couldn’t explain how wonderful they felt, and where after church we just hung out for awhile, admiring the moon and the beautiful sky…and loving each other.
No. Do not speak of bondage in the same breath with which you speak of God’s church. You have come too late, you have come to the wrong person. Positively I affirm that it is the grip of satan that chains the human soul and that drags him into everlasting, hideous bondage and torment. But in Jesus, my Saviour, my Lord, is absolute and glorious Freedom, whose glittering highway leads into Life everlasting, where we will forever to be in the presence of God.