Psalm 145 (Evening)
2 Kings 20:1-21
As improbable as it seems, sometimes people escape from prison by “just walking out.”
In 1977, serial killer Ted Bundy (who had been allowed to go to the law library unhandcuffed to work on his own defense) escaped through a window, at his own trial. In 2005, murderer Charles Victor Thompson escaped from prison by changing into some stashed civilian clothes and merely walking out, flashing his prison inmate ID to the guard (who never bothered to look at it more closely,) and nonchalantly strolling out of the gate.
So, in that light, maybe Peter’s escape from prison in today’s reading in Acts doesn’t look all that impossible, especially when he had the help of an angel.
It’s clear that this mode of escape takes into a large amount of incredulity on multiple fronts. Our moment of comic relief occurs at the end of this story, when Rhoda is so excited to see Peter, that instead of bringing him in, leaves him at the gate (and us wondering if Peter will be caught while standing outside being polite!) Of course everyone in the house thought she was crazy.
It’s also clear that Peter’s own sense of this escape, to him, was equally incredulous, with a dream-like quality to it–so much so that the thought he was only having a vision, not really escaping from prison.
When we hear the stories of people who have escaped other forms of “prison”–whether that prison was abduction and captivity, an abusive relationship, or the imprisoning spiral of addiction–we often also hear their own escapes as having a very dream-like quality, perhaps not really knowing they are free until some time later. They often talk about a heightened awareness to very minor details, time moving faster or slower than they are accustomed to it flowing, and the feeling of being “invisible” during their escape. I sometimes wonder if they are simply in a heightened state of being in the presence of God.
Those of us who love them sometimes are not convinced they are really free, either. Perhaps we don’t recognize them, or seem confused that they are suddenly among us, or–in the case of those who have escaped the prison of addiction, well…we’ve been burned before and we just don’t believe it’s possible anymore until some time passes, and we can once again come to believe.
Do you have a story of escape and feeling the presence of God worth sharing? Has someone you loved escaped a prison from which you thought there was no hope of return?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid