The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach 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. Isaiah 61:1 (NIV)
I can’t wear a bracelet for long. I don’t like the jiggle jangle on my wrist or the interference in using my arms. Most of the time, they become desk ornaments lying beside my computer until time to go home. That may explain why as a teenager I failed to keep a pledge to wear a POW bracelet until the man whose name I was assigned came home. I wore the bracelet only a few times before setting it aside. My sister, however, wore hers so long it grew thin and almost broke in half. I remember both of us watching the news each evening hoping to hear the names of our POWs on the list of those released. For many years, I have thought that the next flashbulb moment in my life happened in the 1970s. I was strongly impacted by the image of a group of just released prisoners coming down off the stairs of a plane and of a man racing forward to meet his children and wife and picking them up in his arms with such joy that I felt I was a part of the emotional moment. All these years, I thought that it must have been the release of Vietnam War POWS, but thinking back to the time, I realize now it happened while I was in graduate school and that was long after the last living POWS were returned home. I know I was in graduate school because I was so drawn to the television that I chose to be late for my work as a graduate assistant at the university. Researching those years, I believe what I was seeing was the release of the fifty two Americans held for 444 days from Iran on January 20, 1981. The timing would have been right, but you would think I would have remembered the rest of that story. That they were released just moments after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President. After rereading the story recently, I naively thought, “Why would Reagan agree to such timing when it would have upstaged his own inauguration?” until I realized it was Iran’s way of punishing former President Jimmy Carter who had worked so hard for the release of the hostages before his term as president ended. Whatever the circumstances of their release, the joy at finally being free was infectious. I think about those images of their release whenever I read the verses cited above. The conditions that they suffered while in prison were unimaginable for most of us. At times, guards played Russian roulette with the hostages as targets. They were searched repeatedly and beaten. To go from being chained and blindfolded one day, to being paraded as heroes through the streets of New York City the next must have been mind boggling. All of us are in some way prisoners. To our past. To our frail bodies. To our circumstances. Yet, Christ came to free us from whatever chains would hold us down.