In order to escape your prison, you will have to argue your case. No one can argue it for you.
I’ve got a hearing coming up- Docket 249 in the Court of Self Appeals- and I’m getting antsy. I can tell you it’s no cake walk. I’m prowling around this cage like a tiger fresh off the jungle, drowning myself in images of freedom that induce feelings of freedom, that induce tears one instant, and panic the next. I’ve been reciting ecstatic poems silently to myself, in my head, in circles. I’m a mantra in motion. I’m in this cycle of determined, euphoric mightiness followed by dank silence.
I keep coming back to this one moment. Imagine you’re spinning plates and you give them a mighty spin, and you just watch and time stands still and they spin in seeming motionlessness, and it seems like this could go on forever, but then, even before that first wobble, you can tell… they’re slowing down. They’re going to fall. I’m in this cage pumping myself up and hoping it will last, hoping against hope that my latest method was correct- that the coded mantra I gave to the touchpad was accepted by the heavenly teller machine- and that this time it will stick and dispense my Grace… And then I come back to that one moment. It’s just a subtle reversal. Perfectly calm air changes course, but only if you were really paying attention would you know it. Only a butterfly could sense what I’m talking about. But when you’re desperate for these signs, desperate to not see a thing- there it is. I mean, when it hits me I haven’t even begun to feel bad yet. There’s simply this softening. The song is no longer new, it’s old. It’s on the twentieth playback in a row, and it’s getting to be a bit much. It’s still good, but it’s stale. I’m still dancing around my cell, but I know by then it’s over, and the rest of the dance is a fake. I’m headed back down into sterility.
Maybe I don’t want to get out of this cage. You know what it is- I keep coming back to me. Just me. I’m at the bottom of a circle, and I just can’t bring myself to rest there. So I work myself up again. I start doing jumping jacks. I duck and weave- jab, jab, jab. I let visions flood my cage. I put the past behind me, and forgive myself all the circles, and I offer it all up. I’m all in this time. I promise myself. I’m all in. I’m ready. I put new posters on my walls. I set new routines. I get up before dawn and read parables.
But the thing is: no one can argue your case for you. That’s the thing. You have to stand up there in front of that Judge and convince him. I just imagine it and my fists tighten.
This whole time, Jesus has been on a metal folding chair outside my cell, reading or sitting or just being. You imagine that? Just being? That’s what I want… By the whole time, I don’t mean just today. I mean the whole time. For the longest time I didn’t even know he was there, but he was. He told me the other day he’s always been there. I needed that. I was trying to make an art project out of my shoe lace and just talking to him, not really looking at him but not really pumping myself up or anything, just getting really focused on little tiny things. It was rare and it was nice. He told me he knew what it was like in here and that he looked forward to the day when I was free, and it meant a lot to me. Sometimes I can see him and sometimes I can’t, but somehow I know he’s always there.
The thing is, this Docket, there’s not actually a time set. Sometimes I get infuriated that nobody will tell me when my hearing is going to be. How am I gonna’ get outta’ here, Jesus? Huh? I just need that Judge to see me, to see how good I can be, and show him some of these things I wrote in my diary. They prove it right there, don’t they? I know that will be the end. He’ll turn me loose for sure. Then we can go play cards for real.
One day I grabbed the bars and shook my whole body back and forth, howling. I couldn’t see Jesus, then. If he was there I was screaming bloody murder right into his ear or something. It was an awful thing to think I was doing that, but this place- sometimes it compresses you in like a spring and you just have to uncoil. Let it rip. Sometimes you have to say the hell with this place. Good behavior ain’t cuttin’ it. Bein’ good an’ bein’ little an’ trapped ain’t doin’ it anymore. The bars weren’t even moving. My whole body was whipping back and forth like I was doing push-ups against a horizontal gravity. It was good exercise for sure.
Then I crawled over to where Jesus sits and told him I didn’t know if I could do the time. I was reduced to telling the truth. I couldn’t see Him but I knew he was there. I got real honest with myself, about pumpin’ myself up and squirrelin’ all around my feelings. I got real honest and I started shaking, and I said to him: I need that hearing soon. I need it, dammit. ‘Cuz I don’t know if I can do this time. I need somethin’ besides ME to work with. I’m all outta’ visions and dreams I can’t reach. I’m all dried up. I looked at him and told him I thought I was gonna’ die in there. I started to cry and then I just couldn’t. I didn’t even have it in me for tears.
Later I could see him again. He was sitting on that metal folding chair and looking out the window, and I could tell the sun was going down, and he was just waiting, or listening. He does that a lot. Sometimes hours go by and he hardly moves, and I’m re-enacting Shakespeare in my pajamas and slamming my mattress up against the walls like I wanna’ be a defensive lineman. He had a little leather notebook in his breast pocket, and he took it out, wrote a note, tore out the sheet and passed it to me. I wanted his pity, I guess. I wanted him to tell me it was going to be alright. I wanted him to go down the hall and get that damn Judge to set up the hearing. I wanted him to make something happen! What can I do!? I’m in here. Stuck.
It’s Docket 249. I yell that sometimes, out through the bars. I say, Jesus, cover your ears, and then I say, Hey! Docket 249 you idiots! You hear me!? Two! Four! Nine!
I read the note.
“Michael, there is no hearing.”
I shrieked. Was it canceled? I can do better, I said. I can do the right things. I’ll pay attention. He started writing another note. Why are you writing notes? I asked. He gave me another one.
“There are no right things you can do.”
I knew it was hopeless. You see? I knew it. This whole thing, whatever this is, is a lie. I wanted to do some stunt jumps against the wall or something. Get some take out. I just collapsed on my bed. Jesus was writing up a storm then. Freakin’ great, right? I said, Hey, at least I have you as my friend, right? I can make it with you here. I can survive.
Then I started to read the last note. Something was happening then… and too fast. I wanted to go back to another time, go back and not do something I must have done.
“I’m going away for a while.” I wasn’t done reading but I looked up at him and suddenly my lip was trembling. How could he do this to me? I can’t do this alone… And he knows that…
“I’m going away for a while. It’s time for me to go to the Place where you will come and join with me forever. But you’ll never be alone because I have left you with my heart. All of this time, every moment that you have ever known in this place, I have been placing it inside of you, whispering everything I’ve ever known to you while you’ve slept, placing it all into the safest spot inside of you, into your heart, and now it is complete. You may think it is not, but I assure you it is perfectly safe and fully complete. It contains an answer to every prayer you’ve ever had. It contains everything you seek. If you open my heart inside of you, inside of your heart where I put it, everything will be made new. When you do, you will find me again, in the discovery of your Self. For we will meet in that Place to which I go now. Where you are you, inside of me, and I am me, inside of you.
Please accept that there is no Docket 249. There is no prison. There is only a pain you think is real, a pain you think is you, that makes a cage in which you rattle. And it is time for you to find that this need not be.”
And he was gone.
I’ve never felt to so alone, and yet so clean. I was still stuck, but I was honest about it in a new way. I was honest that it was within me to give birth to something Else. I sat on my bed and a strange thing happened then. I began to learn how to be quiet. I began to learn how to be patient. And I began to learn how to be who I am. I don’t know how- it just descended upon me. Something began to teach me, and I began to let it.
I discovered many, many things in the days and years that followed. Eventually I was writing letters to people around the world, telling them all about freedom. I discovered I enjoyed sculpting, and chess. I liked to read books about the first space flights. I liked to know how clocks worked. I liked to scrub pans. I hated doing my laundry. I knew there was something inside of me that was coming out, and I knew it was okay to just let it bubble up. I stopped pumping myself up, and inside of this new patience, I found I could be what I was, and it was wonderful.
You know that feeling?
When you reach the bottom of the circle, and the pumpin’ up has worn off, if you sit still long enough you’ll drop through the crack into real Depth. The cage will disappear. That’s arguing your case. Arguing your case is accepting the Reality placed within you.
The rest is like a dream. There’s nothing more to be said. I have given my heart to you, and we are free.