A friend posted on Facebook the other day about getting stuck inside her bathroom as she was replacing the doorknob. The moment I read her words, a long-forgotten memory came rushing back. In fact, I think it could be my very first memory.
I was two years old, stuck in my grandparent’s bathroom. (I know that they say your earliest memories begin around age three to three-and-a-half, but I’m pretty sure a three-year-old could have gotten herself out of my dilemma, so I’m certain I was younger than that.) You might not think that getting trapped inside a bathroom would be all that traumatic, but for a wee little person, it was. As the memory returned, I even felt the stress.
I think the story played out like this. I had gone with my mom across the street to visit my grandparents. At some point in our visit, I wandered into their bathroom and closed the door. I then proceeded to open a bathroom drawer and rummage around.
After a while, my mom must have heard me crying or calling for help. She came looking for me, discovered that I was in the bathroom, and opened the bathroom door. Only it wouldn’t open, or at least not more than about one inch. The drawers, you see, were right smack in front of the door, meaning that when the drawers were pulled open, the door would be blocked. I had only opened one drawer. I think the middle one. And try as I might, I could not get it closed. I was quite frustrated.
I remember my mom on the other side of the door, trying to explain to a toddler how to push the drawer in. I didn’t get it. I was pushing on it as hard as I could, only I was pushing on the side of the drawer, which was far easier to access. I simply did not understand that I had to go to the front of the drawer and push from that angle.
I was upset. Mom was getting tense. And then suddenly I sort of fell against the drawer, and as I did so, I managed to shove it — at the correct angle — and push it closed. I was free!
I have another memory of being trapped, this time in a closet along with several friends. We were in fifth grade and had gone into a storage closet to practice a puppet show that we were doing on the Cherokee Trail of Tears. When we were done rehearsing, we went to open the door, only it wouldn’t budge. We began hammering on the door and our teacher, the beloved Mrs. Roberts, discovered that she couldn’t open the door, either.
The principal, Mr. Hunter, was brought in. (Oh, the complex job-description of an elementary school administrator!) An ax was procured. We huddled in the back of the closet while Mr. Hunter broke through the door with said ax. Such excitement! We were the stuff of legend. The heroes of Nellie S. Milton Elementary School for at least a day.
Traps — no matter how we got into them — are stressful. Sometimes we bring them upon ourselves. Sometimes we fall into them completely by accident, or by fate or birth, or by being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Whatever the cause, we’re stuck. Snared by illness, perhaps, or opinion, or point of law. Finances can trap us. Or location. Or emotions. We feel that we can’t get out, that it would take far more than an ax to sever what binds us. We push and pull, all to no avail.
Enter Jesus. Towards the beginning of Jesus’ ministry on earth, he went into the temple and read from Isaiah 61:1 which says, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” He then told the listening crowd, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21 NIV)
Jesus brings us freedom from what entraps us. Give him your fears, your dark places, your impossible-to-get-out-of situations. No situation can stymie him. No lock can hold him back. He holds the master key.
Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.