The Dungeon Flamed With Light
Written by Adam Whitescarver | ChattHOP Staff
My story of being changed by Christ is not, so far as I know, typical.
I know a lot of fantastic people who give a narrative about how Jesus came in and drastically changed their lives overnight. They were addicted, angry, abusive, etc., and then Jesus came in and fixed it—simply a miracle! For these people and what God did in their lives, I really am profoundly grateful. They were saved the nightmare of having to desperately climb their way out of a pit.
I used to have a hard time with people who were changed so quickly. My emotions ranged from disbelief, to jealousy, to furious raging at God. I wondered if something was terribly wrong with me, or if my so-called “conversion” to Christ had even took.
I knew that I knew Him. Things had happened to me that had no explanation other than Christ was Lord and Maker of Heaven and Earth. The Bible, once a dead book without a drop of life in it for me, had become resplendent with glorious light on pretty much every page, and my mind was becoming filled with understanding toward the things of God. I voraciously read it from cover to cover, over and over again, and I prayed for hours, HOURS, on a near daily basis—and this was not a thing of striving, but of life-giving necessity. It was a fire that was fueled and stoked and breathed upon by none other than a Living God. I knew He was there, and I knew He was with me.
Yet in the midst of it all, I was horrifically sinful, carrying self-destructive addictions I could NOT break free from. And for this, I was angry.
My accusation and offense with God was that He had revealed Himself to me and yet I was not free. It BRUISED my soul that I could not escape Him. Did I not know He was real, I would have quit more than a thousand times over. I regularly wished I didn’t know He was there so I could be free to be a slave to godless living rather than having to deal with the reality of His existence as well as the problem of my depravity.
So I raged at God over and over and over again. In agony I would pound my fist into walls and objects and pound them on the ground because NOTHING was working. I would scream, SCREAM, SCREAM!!!! at Him, demanding He answer for Himself why He seemed so pathetically impotent to fix the likes of me. There was also the weeping of snotty, guttural cries before Him, pleading for His cleansing. I would repeatedly cry out according to the Psalmist’s prayer, “MAKE ME go in the path of YOUR commandments,” for I could not see myself doing it. In every way I could I took measures in my daily life to gain self-control and avoid temptation. There were people to whom I was confessing and accountable. To the best of my ability, and beyond my breaking point, I took every action that every church, minister, program, book, Scripture passage advised. But I would hardly budge, if at all, in my innermost being.
Before God Almighty I would wrestle, telling Him that if EVER there was a person who wanted to be free and was counting on Him to do it, it was me; yet it seemed as though Christ had left me to rot in prison. There were the promises, ALL OVER Scripture, that Jesus would set free the captives and deliver His beloved. I heard maddening, enraging (to me), testimonies of sinner after sinner praising the Blood and the Good Name of Jesus for having set them free of their prisons and their sorrows, and yet there I was, unable to fix myself and seemingly ignored by the God whom I was begging to fix me.
And if I’m going on too long and berating my point here, consider that I LIVED this reality for years. It was a living nightmare; it is actually so painful to recount the memories that this post is honestly emotionally difficult to write. However, it is also overwhelmingly sweet to my soul, because as I recall these painful details of my life, they are contrasted most sharply by the love of my God who had mercy on me and delivered me.
It would take many blog posts to recount all the details of the full prison break, but suffice it to say for now that God was wisely shepherding me, changing me little by little, the entire time. He obliterated the moralistic and Pharisaical pride I had in my own ability to perform, and of taking any refuge in my own righteousness.
Over the years of His shedding forgiveness on me, my heart became irrevocably bound to Him and His love. Indeed, He binds us to Himself. The greatest thing imparted to me, that flooded my experience, mind, will, emotions, and changed the foundations and capacity of my soul, was the love of God.
The best way I can describe it was that God strengthened my soul’s ability to receive His unconditional love for me, when initially I was so bad at abiding in it. My fears of His turning me away on account of my repeated failures were finally stilled. And I grew confident that the message His Bible declares about Him really is true. Christ came to save to the uttermost, and we love Him and others because He first loved us.
I was free indeed.
Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature’s night.
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray, I woke, the dungeon flamed with light!
My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
Amazing love! How can it be? That Thou my God should’st die for me?
“Quickening” is used in it’s archaic sense in this hymn. It means “life-giving” even “resurrection life-giving” here.