When we think of a caged bird, immediately a bland life in the absence of freedom springs to mind. Today in my home, we were training our budgie to come out of her cage. She has been tamed by me but seems to prefer life in the cage. Every time we do take her out of the cage she flies right back in. Much to our chagrin, the minute of her return she bursts into happy song.
Why? Because she was not hand-raised and spent the first half of her life in a cage. I suppose the appropriate term for this would be that she had become “institutionalized”. Have you ever seen that movie “Shawshank Redemption”?
In the film, they describe some prisoners as people who break their parole to get sent back to prison. They’d become so accustomed to life on the inside, that the outside seemed to be full of discomfort. They were “Institutionalized”.
We, humans, are no different to the bird. We’ve grown up in a world in which we’ve become caged by pleasing spirituality’s that make no demands of us. We claim we want freedom, but each time such freedom makes demands that we look inwards and change, we are reluctant to take flight.
The very minute someone reveals to us that the first obstacle to freedom is ourselves and all our desires, we fly right back to the safety of the cage. It’s more comfortable to live the illusion that we are thrilled than to traverse the unchartered waters of freedom and reality.
It’s part of our fallen nature to seek out the cage of the ego. Here, behind the iron bars of self-love and sensual pleasures perceived as true happiness, we make our beds. We spoke about the institutionalization of prisoners. When prison comes to mind, pictures of dread and sheer depression or fear spring to mind. However, there are people in jail more happy and free than those on the outside.
You see, it’s more dangerous to be sentenced to a life of ignorance in sin than to be behind bars of a physical nature. There are people of all types of religion and none, who have been behind bars unjustly.
Never once did they show any sign of anxiety or depression. The four walls around them was a mere construct, yet they flew and soared higher than any person on the outside living with fear, aggression and hate.
Happiness is there for the taking. Yet to the contrary, we often show by our behaviour that we are not ready to live life on the outside. Letting go of the cage that brings us comfort is so hard. We like living in the illusion that pure joy consists in our base desires not to forget the ups and downs of our emotions.
We go to psychologists not looking for a cure or to be freed from the iron cage, but seeking comfort. To be told we need only to re-arrange the furniture in our little prison to make life more bearable is paramount. God forbid we should ever consider coming out of the cage altogether because that would mean leaving the only thing we’ve ever known.
It’s not the unknown land of freedom that people fear. How can you fear the unknown? It’s the loss of what we already know that we fear. My ego, my position in society, and what others think of me is all that matters.
You know, Jesus tells the rich man in the Gospel, should he want to follow Him, to give away everything he owns to the poor. The rich man was sad about this and couldn’t let go of his riches.
I really believe that Jesus is talking about physical riches, but also the other kind that weighs us down even more. It’s easy to give away your riches, but how hard is it to give up the second kind of riches? Mans approval, self-love and egoism.
Always looking for the emotional support of our peers. These are the riches we become sad about having to give up. Instead of following Christ, we walk away with these riches on our backs and sad faces.
The first step to healing is to realize you don’t want to be healed. Like the rich man, living in the cage of materialism and egoism is far better than freedom, right? Don’t be the bird who sits in his cage, soar high and don’t be a slave to your ego.
Allow God to take you out of the cage and tame your institutionalized soul, transforming it into a lighthouse of hope that guides others on a better path.
Sing a new song.