Gorée

I visited an island three years ago in Africa.

A slave island.

The colorful walls of the village contrasted sharply with the dark tunnels of the slave prison. We were shown where the slave-keepers had sat around the table, drinking wine late into the night, and laughing – to see their captives suffer.

I hated to look.

There were windows on the second floor, on all sides, facing the Atlantic ocean – the east. On ground level, the slave chambers, musty and stinking, were hewn out of solid rock. Perhaps the footsteps of the cruel men above had echoed into the stony prisons; perhaps the sound of the ocean’s angry waves had reached the captives. But they had lived in darkness, for their rooms were windowless.

Where there are windows, there is hope. When all is darkness – hope begins to shrink.

It’s told that when the slaves were being rowed out to the vessels that carried them across the ocean, some wild-eyed ebony men and women leapt into the waters to swim for freedom – and there weren’t sharks in those parts for nothing.

I wonder whether they were blinded by the light when they were first let out – whether the ocean’s gleaming surface and foaming waves were a welcome sight, or something to be feared.

The years have worn away dirt and memory, and only conjecture and eroding stone remain.

And oh, I wonder, am I any different than those people were?

I have not been bodily taken captive and handed over to slave traders – but I may have sold my soul for my status.

Am I really any different?

I have hesitated to write what I believe in, because I strive to be part of a community where one slipped word can lose you your reputation.

I’ve heard it said, we choose our prisons.

The proverbial caged bird sings shrilly for freedom – but isn’t it equally proverbially his anger, those bars of rage, that keeps him imprisoned?

Maybe sitting behind bars is easier than facing the open sky.

Maybe re-inventing yourself every other day is easier than living honestly. 

I choose to be a prisoner to the Lord Jesus Christ, his own bondservant, rather than to slave for opinions.

May it be the Lord who examines me. 

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