“The caged bird sings with a fearful trill, of things unknown, but longed for still, and his tune is heard on the distant hill, for the caged bird sings of freedom.” — Maya Angelou
The manifestation of my mild obsession with bird-things over the years has included a passion for birdhouses and birdcages. By ‘bird-cages‘ I’m speaking strictly of the decorative variety. My love of birds does not cross over into the pet realm… at all. I do not own a pet bird and I don’t want to. They are messy and stinky and noisy.
I love birds in their natural habitat. I love their nests, their eggs, their feathers. I love watching them flitting from tree to tree. I love to observe birds feeding in my backyard, tending to their young and most of all in flight.
It’s the essence of birds I’m drawn to. They are the embodiment of a kind of freedom not experienced by humans. They are not tethered to terra firma; they are free to rise above it —a gift granted uniquely to birds.
I think that is probably the true reason I have no desire to own a pet bird. It seems to me that a bird in a cage is missing the fundamental essence of what a bird is. A bird in a cage is no longer free to fly.
∼ Not all cages are forged with metal ∼
I was reading recently, in the Gospel of Luke, the story of a woman who was crippled up and bent over – a condition which (through a modern lens) was likely the long-term effect of scoliosis or rheumatoid arthritis. According to Luke’s account, this woman had been living with this debilitating condition for 18 years.
On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. Luke 13:10-11
I thought a lot about those 18 long years and the impact her physical condition must have had on her entire life. In addition to the physical discomfort and suffering that she no doubt endured, her condition meant loss of freedom. She was bound by the limitations of her deformity; bent so far over that her eyes looked continually at the dust of the ground.
Yet there in the middle of the Sabbath crowd (religious folk) Jesus took notice of her (a novel action for a religious leader) had compassion on her (again, novel) and initiated a connection with her. He healed her completely and restored her body.
When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Luke 13:10-13
For the first time in nearly two decades, this woman stood erect, as humans were designed to do. She was able to look her fellow man in the eye. She could see to the end of the street and survey the landscape beyond. She could watch the sun melt into strands of color below the horizon and gaze up at the stars.
Her infirmity was clearly physical in nature. Yet as the story continues we hear Jesus, in response to criticism by the Pharisees, unapologetically blaming her condition on the work of the enemy.
The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water?
Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her? Luke 13:14-16
This woman had been in bondage. She was not free to be who she was meant to be. Jesus pointed a finger straight at Satan.
∼ Whom the Son sets free… ∼
In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, there is a dark creature named Sauron who masterminds a forge in the fiery underworld caverns of Mount Doom. There his elven-smiths craft evil intended for use against man. Sauron’s ultimate aim is to rule over mankind; to conquer and enslave him.
Is that not the aim of our own enemy? Perhaps Satan’s handiwork is not limited to snares and fiery darts —but includes the forging of cages.
From the days of old that old serpent has been crafting evil aimed at conquering mankind, diminishing the beauty and honor God intended for us. We were meant to soar, to dive, to glide and catch the updrafts of God’s blessing and glory. Satan desires to hold captive that which God created to live and thrive in absolute freedom.
I wonder, how many of the Father’s sparrows are kept in cages devised by the enemy?
Regrettably, a bird can survive just fine in captivity. Given food and water and a few trinkets to play with a bird might be content to live in a birdcage for a long time, perhaps years. A bird born in captivity may not even be aware that it is caged. Yet none of us could claim that a caged bird is free to thrive. Regardless of how well appointed or comfortable the cage might be, the bird is still powerless to do the one thing that truly defines a bird – it is not free to fly.
How does that apply to my life? What things do I struggle against that translate into loss of freedom and prohibit me from reaching my full potential? Regret? Bitterness? Disappointment? Fear?
It is for FREEDOM that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
How much of our lives are experienced within the confines of a cage? A cage can be forged by the enemy, or could even be a product of our own making. Either way, we will never experience what it means to be a bird until we are emancipated.
The good news proclaimed through the story of the woman found in Luke 13 is that Jesus has the power to shatter the cage. He is the All Mighty King of kings against whom nothing can stand. Through His sacrifice on the cross He conquered sin, death and the grave.
Because the same Spirit that rolled away the stone lives within you, no cage forged in darkness can hold you. The door is open. Step out into freedom. Take flight and become what you are meant to be!
I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. Psalm 119:45