Soaring Above Your Prison

by Andy Wood on August 5, 2009

in Five LV Laws, Principle of Freedom

prison prayerApril-something 2002.  It was one of the most surreal, prophetic dreams I’ve ever had.  I dreamed I was in prison.  Not sure what the crime was; I just remember being in a cell there.  The only thing remarkable about that was that instead of the typical concrete and steel, this cell had a nice waxed tile floor and bright lights. 

 For some reason, they let me out on a weekend pass, but eventually I had to go back.  I remember dreading the return, and trying to avoid it.  But I did wind up back in my tile‑floored cell. There in the cell, alone, my thoughts turned to Watchman Nee, the Chinese pastor/teacher who was imprisoned by the communist regime for his faith.  All those years he spent in prison.  How did he do it?  How could he experience God’s presence there in the prison?

It was then I actually saw him.  In my dream I saw Watchman Nee, prostrate on the floor of his prison cell.  As I watched, he was transformed before my eyes into a puppy – a black Labrador Retriever puppy.  Then he changed into a silver chalice.  Taller, thinner.  Rising up.  From that he changed into a giraffe.  He had risen above his prison cell and was feeding in the tops of the trees.

Four Images of Transformation

Just like that, the dream was over. I was left with four crystal-clear images – a prostrate man, a black lab puppy, a silver chalice, and a giraffe.  A transformation from prison to freedom, though the outward circumstances never changed. A deliberately-staged process, flowing from the floor to the heavens.  What did it mean?

 Often we find ourselves in prisons – some of our own making, others unfairly thrust upon us by others.  Sometimes they are the fruit of living in a dying body or a badly-fallen world.  Our natural inclination is to seek a means of escape.  Sometimes, like in the dream, we get a short-term pass.  But soon reality comes crashing back in, and we’re faced again with those bars and walls of habits or circumstances, lifestyles or relationships.  Where is the freedom we long for? 

The Prostrate Man

Go back to those four images.  My freedom begins as I humble myself before the Lord in complete dependence on Him.  We have been given the gift of being able to communicate with the God of Heaven, in the name of His Son, regardless of where we are.  We are invited to come boldly, and reminded that He gives grace to the humble.  And sometimes our prisons are a reminder of how useless we are as long as we try to stand on our own.  The proud, standing man remains in lockup; the humble, dependent one begins to rise.

puppyThe Puppy

There is more to being in the presence of God than whining and groaning before him.  Get this – He actually invites us to enjoy Him.  What a concept!  He welcomes us to play in His presence.  To laugh with a child’s (puppy’s) heart.  Sure, I know we live in a fallen world, with big problems, eternal destinies, and serious things to think and pray about.  All the more reason why our Father invites us to come barefoot, toys in hand, into His presence.  Do you know what it means to laugh and pray at the same time?  To see the fun side of your Creator?  Moreover, do you know what it’s like to do that, even when everything around you is dark, and bound, and painful?  It takes considerable faith to see past the bars to the heart of a God who still knows how to have fun.  But when we learn to enjoy God’s presence, even as we’re casting ourselves upon Him, our spirits begin to rise above the pain of the prison. 

chaliceThe Silver Chalice

From dependence and playfulness, I move from there to communion – the silver chalice.  There I recognize that in spite of my circumstances, the issue of God’s love for me has already been settled once and for all by the shedding of Christ’s blood.  He exchanged His righteousness for my sinfulness, and shed His blood for my guilt.  He took my bondage in order to offer me His freedom.  His only request:  never forget. 

In communion I recognize that this cup is not mine alone.  I share it with everyone who calls upon His name.  The mountain preacher in East Tennessee.  The Kenyan mother whose four-year-old has never seen rain.  The Iranian brothers who meet in secret in a hostile culture.  And there I realize that no prison can separate me from the family into which I have been adopted.  There is no freedom apart from communion, no matter WHERE my circumstances have me.

giraffeThe Giraffe

Then the soaring quality of the giraffe – that graceful, stately animal, uniquely created with the capacity to reach for the sweetest leaves in the tops of the trees.  As I commune, I learn to rise above the circumstances and feed on God’s faithfulness, drinking deeply of His love and grace.  The bars and the walls may still be around, but the sky is limitless.  And in the process I gain something greater – the promise that “whom the Son sets free is free indeed.”


I don’t know what kind of prisons you may face, and how permanent or temporary they may feel to you.  What I do know is that at a time just before I would face extraordinary change, followed by a startling opportunity (namely the launching of my church), God chose to paint a dramatically vivid picture for me.  And those images still speak to me today.  Nothing – nothing – can separate you from the love He offers you.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim September 1, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Thank you for your insightful and encouraging message. I am reminded daily in all kinds of ways that if I seek God, he will be found, his peace will be found. I am sorely tempted in the midst of my various “prisons” and I desperately want to find the way out. Pray that I continue to choose to trust in God’s word and in his wisdom, sovereignty, love and grace.

LindyWise October 23, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Dear Pastor: (And now I know you’re a Pastor, forgive me for barging into your house and eating everything in-site (punny) without even the courtesy of knowing who you are!) Thank you for the wonderful meal you are serving from the Lord. Everything I have prayed and every question I have asked in the last three days is on one page of your blog after another. I am feasting on Manna from heaven. May the Lord bless you exceeding, abundantly above ALL you can ask or think. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

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