This article came out of a recent divine lesson in my own life.
What was the lesson about?
My life has been filled with negative experiences. I’ve had a lot of friends and family die in a short period. My health has come and gone repeatedly. The list goes on and on, continually. I don’t say that for sympathy, but rather as a benchmark. It’s so you know, when I say we can find joy and purpose in a world full of waking nightmares, you’ll know I’ve seen my share of hardship, my share of difficult self improvement and have still come out believing in the power of the Holy Trinity.
Why the title of this article?
What do I mean by “sing from the center of the prison”? Let’s start with a story from the Bible, from Acts 16:16 (NIV). Whether you believe it’s true or not, the moral still holds a proven value.
The Apostles Paul and Silas had been preaching in a city where a woman, possessed, had been following them. She was trying to put destructive influence in place of the valuable information that Paul and Silas were giving out. Paul at one point had had enough of this woman’s slander. That’s when he stopped his travel, turned toward her, drove out her demons and freed her from the possession.
The woman was a slave, and because she was no longer possessed she had lost her ability to dazzle a crowd with predictions, fortune telling, etc. In turn, her owners lost the ability to take in a lot of money by showcasing her magic and trickery.
Those owners went angrily to the local law enforcement. They’d convinced them, along with a crowd of people, to have Paul and Silas stripped, beaten down and imprisoned, not just anywhere, but in the center of the facility.
I'm trying to imagine this, being so publicly humiliated, lost in the depths of a crowd who had pounded them with anger and hate. Then being locked up in the darkest, nastiest part of a prison. I’m sure singing would be far from the things I’d instinctively want coming out of my mouth. Rolling a few heads would likely be in the front line of my thoughts. And yet somehow that’s not how Silas and Paul handled it.
Later on that night, while bound and likely bruised, cut and sore as all get-out, Paul and Silas shattered the boundaries of what would normally be done. They started singing hymns, praying and (my assumption is) crafting words that praised the God that many of us might be verbally crushing at that point.
At about midnight a violent earthquake ensued shaking the doors and shackles loose. When the jailer had seen the open doors he drew his sword with the intention of killing himself, probably assuming he would have serious consequences for letting the prisoners go. At that point, Paul caught him and stopped him from his closely pending suicide. He told the jailer that they were all still in the prison.
Shortly after that, the jailer came to his knees in front of Paul and Silas, shaking, asking, “what must I do to be saved?”.
The three main points I get from this story
People are redeemable. That’s the subject of another article, so I’ll move on.
Those of us who make work out of bringing information about the spirit are not alone in having opposition, slander being only one example.
The part that was most specific to the lesson in my life at that time… we have to sing from center of the prison. Is that an abstract idea, that we're all in prison? Yet another subject for another article. But for now it's safe to say we all, or eventually will all, feel like we're trapped in terrible situations sometimes, personal prisons.
No one has to do anything but hunker down, stay angry and let life take it’s course (and in that scenario, I do mean “take”). Thing is, there’s another choice when life has us feeling locked down. We can shine.
There are two ways to look at how this can be done
Both ways are important. Each has it’s own prime moment for use:
1. Build a calm persona that stays with us throughout every-day life. There are so many ways to do this. Eventually I’ll highlight a slew of them, but for now I have a quick and useful set of tools that I’ve highlighted in my article, The Art of Calm, found on another website I’ve created.
2. Do it by force. I mean exactly what just came off of my keyboard… force yourself to sing when things are at their worst. If you don’t sing, pray. If you don’t pray, start praying. If none of that works, find a piece within yourself, something you do well that creates a positive air. Take that song, that prayer, that skill and push! Push it past the anger, sadness and negativity you feel buried beneath. Shine like you’d shine if everything was at it’s best or better.
What the… why?
Here’s one example of the way I see this technique: Imagine being wrapped in a thick, dark cloth. Just outside of that shroud is a bright, perfect, 72 degree, beautiful day. Inside it’s a nasty, hot, sweaty, stinky mess (and just maybe you ate a lot of beans earlier). All I have is one thing, a knife. I can lay in there, petrified by the bad feelings of why I’m there. Or I can take that knife, pierce the layers and start cutting until that ugly shroud is on the ground beside me, my skin free to soak up that beautiful air.
The song I sing from the center of each little prison is like the knife sitting in my hand when I’m inside that barrier. That song, those prayers, those words about who I am and who God is to me, they’re usually what make the first holes in any dark cover over my life, any negative issue that surrounds me.
It’s not easy
I believe most of us are wired for the ease of negativity. It’s not that we’re inadequate. It’s that the most well known ways to deal with a ridiculously backward, stress inducing world are things that are bad for us. Addictions are rampant. Too many downturned faces are everywhere. We've lost a lot of our grip on what community should be, all for the gain of influence, popularity and material things. I'm not trying to insult anyone. I’m trying to say I understand how difficult it is to sing from the center of the prison.
And yet, one simple fact remains: When we choose to linger in the feelings we get from negativity, we don’t thrive. But when we choose to force our way into a better mindset, we and our lives instantly brighten. It’s not always quick, but it’s always more promising, especially for our spiritual future.
The benefits of singing from the center of the prison
The most obvious, short list I can think of:
1. Stronger, healthier, more productive relationships. My partner and I are a good example of this. We’ve almost fallen completely apart many times. One big reason is that I struggle to let go of things that upset me. I struggle to forgive her for unpolished behaviors. Slough on an unusual heap of trouble from the outside world and you end up with an almost impossible run.
So how do I "sing" from the inner most part of that trouble? I force myself to say things to her on a regular basis about what she does right. She knows I think she's an amazing Mom. She knows I appreciate her support in what I'm doing in my work, even if I'm frustrated with her. We show affection for each other, in front of our child. This gives the child a sense of what works right in a relationship. In the end, all of this will keep the shroud of darkness off of our relationship, and more importantly, off of my daughter's example of what a relationship should be.
It doesn't have to be a romantic relationship. You can shine from within any friendship, family dynamic or even work relationship.
2. A happier you. This is a hard one to explain for me. All I can say is that it works. Throughout the hardship and immense opposition we've faced in our lives, I've recently stopped dwelling on the negatives of those things. I've started focusing more on the positives we have. Sometimes, even if I don't feel grateful because things are going so badly, I still stop and say a quick prayer to thank God, angels, Jesus and other spiritual figures for the help and blessings we have.
I've even literally started singing hymns and songs about hope, God, Christ and the like. It never fails to make me feel more powerful. And even if you don't believe in anything spiritually, this is good practice, just to be grateful for what is going right.
3. More spiritual energy. This one is so in depth, I've written another article to cover it, Gathering the Holy Spirit. In short I'll just say, that nice, tingling feeling we sometimes get when things are going well... that's usually positive spiritual energy. for me it's only ever around when I'm steeped in a positive outlook.
I have such a scientific mind. I like to have data, proof and information before I jump into anything. Before I tried this philosophy, to actively praise positive things in the midst of a downturned mood or even a terrible situation, I had on it nothing but a sermon and some promised freedom from life's pressures. However, a lot of things changed after I learned to sing from the center of the prison. Life became lighter and more enjoyable. My pet peeves became less annoying. I've been more calm and accepting of unusual moments.
So, when my emotional side tells me to forget it, to bear down and throw forgiveness and a brighter outlook out the window, I force myself to sing, pray and give thanks for a life that could always be worse.
Two more things:
The article and philosophy were born from a two-part, divine lesson in my own life. The first part started when I spoke to God about prayers my partner and I would say over our child. I'd wanted to know why my partner's prayers were more effective than mine....Then it got downright weird...
Sing from the center of the prison (Companion Article), was originally only available to supporters, but was released to the public on 8/15/18. To get early access to all other companion articles, and to get much more content, click here to support our risk.
This article packs multiple resources including links to the actual sermon and classes that helped lead me through this lesson. It is permanently for supporters only. To access this and many other resources, click here to support our risk.
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