Have you seen the movie, O Brother Where Art Thou?
The film begins with the escape of three friends, Everett, Pete, and Delmar from a chain gang in rural, depression era Mississippi. Still in leg irons, they set out to retrieve the $1.2 million in treasure that Everett stole from an armored car and buried before his incarceration, and they've got to find it fast. In four days, the whole valley will be flooded to create Arkabutla Lake, and all hopes for riches will be lost.
It's a modern retelling of Homer's Odyssey, and it's hilarious and scary and has an amazing soundtrack that burrows under your skin like ringworm.
A gorgeous, soulful ringworm, but still.
We watched it again at the beach last week, and ever since we got back home, I've been singing Man of Constant Sorrow and When I Went Down to the River to Pray. I'm crazy about both of those songs, but my family is beginning to wish they could figure out how to change my channel.
Then yesterday, as I fiddled with this blog, adding photos of our French life to the French Living page, I came across this picture.
Yes, that man in the black coat is actually me. (I know it's not fashionable, but I'm a Carolina girl who gets cold in the snow, so sorry.)
It was taken during the first year of our French life, during our first visit to Notre Dame d'Orcival, a 13th century Romanesque basilica in the tiny village of Orcival, about forty minutes from where we used to live.
Here's a better photo of the church.
Photo by Francis Debaisieux
The basilica is indeed a world treasure, but the thing that struck me most about it is what hangs on an outer wall. See it in the inset there?
Here, let me blow it up for you.
Photo by Francis Debaisieux
Those are leg irons.
Leg irons, just like the ones binding Everett and Pete and Delmar.
I saw the photo of us standing in the snow beneath the leg irons and remembered that cold day as my brain started singing
I am a man of constant sorrow I've seen trouble all my day. I bid farewell to old Kentucky The place where I was born and raised.
Our Michelin Green Guide said that the chains had been hung "in thanksgiving for released prisoners." Ben wanted to know just who was released and if it was really safe to set prisoners free, and Sarah said that maybe they weren't supposed to be in jail anyway, especially if they were the kind of prisoners who care about thanking God.
But the chains got all of us thinking and talking about what it means for God to set us free.
And yesterday, as I looked at that picture and sung along with Everett, I remembered this verse:
7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets prisoners free,
8 the LORD gives sight to the blind,
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,
the LORD loves the righteous.
9 The LORD watches over the alien
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
It's a lovely scripture, but at first thought, I wasn't sure that it had anything to do with me.
I'm not really oppressed (except by my laundry pile, ha ha.) I'm not hungry or in prison, blind or made to bow down. I'm not an alien anymore, nor am I fatherless or a widow.
But maybe it speaks to me too.
I might not be guilty of doing things that land me in prison, but I know I'm imprisoned in other ways.
Even though I try not to, I do things and think things that keep me from living the whole, healthy life God wants for me.
I envy other people. What they own that I don't. Their talents. What looks like the ease of their lives. I worry too much, and sometimes I let fear keep me from doing things that would please God. Fear of what other people might think. Fear of failing.
I could go on, but you get the point.
I'm just thankful that even though God knows all about my sorry failings, He refuses to shut the door on me. God lets me in anyway, unbinding me daily from the chains that hold me back, letting me try to do better, again and again.
I can see why Ben was worried. Is it really smart of God to operate this way? To set the prisoners free, with just their word and a piddly human effort to do better?
But that's how God operates.
That's how grace operates.
No wonder they call it amazing!
I'd love to hear your thoughts. Have you seen the movie?
What imprisons you?
Have a great Wednesday, y'all!