That question, “What sets the captive free?” kept coming to me as I watched the recent documentary “College Behind Bars.” It’s an inspiring look at a group of incarcerated men and women earning liberal arts degrees through one of the most rigorous and effective prison education programs in the United States. The students cultivate confidence and eloquence, some expressing deep regret for the crimes they’ve committed. One commented that when he reads and studies, he no longer notices his cell’s bars – he’s free.
That idea really resonated with me, since imprisonment can also take the form of mental or physical problems that seem to trap us. I’ve found that there is a deeper level of learning that can not only help us “not notice” limitations but actually bring freedom from them. I’m talking about spiritual education, including studying the Bible and practicing what Christ Jesus taught.
Jesus articulated his purpose best, quoting Isaiah: “to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18, English Standard Version). In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy, a follower of Jesus and the discoverer of Christian Science, urges readers to “classify sickness and error as our Master did, when he spoke of the sick, ‘whom Satan hath bound,’ and find a sovereign antidote for error in the life-giving power of Truth acting on human belief, a power which opens the prison doors to such as are bound, and sets the captive free physically and morally” (p. 495).
I will be forever grateful for the release from migraine headaches that certainly felt as though they were imprisoning me. They began during my teenage years and continued for years into the early part of my marriage. When a migraine would come on, I felt as though I was enveloped in darkness, losing my ability to think clearly and go about my day normally.
I chose to pray about this rather than seek medical relief, because I’d seen tangible results from this approach in other areas of my life. And when I’d pray about the headaches, the symptoms often rapidly disappeared. But the episodes recurred. When I became a mother and had three young children to care for, I felt the urgency to be freed from this condition once and for all.
One day I mentally got down on my knees and asked God to show me the “life-giving power” of divine Truth that sets free. That moment of surrender marked the beginning of my permanent healing. It was an appeal to the scientific laws of healing that Jesus practiced and that are present and applicable to each of us today, too.
As I opened my thought to divine Truth, it was like a light dawning in my consciousness. I began to be more aware of dark states of thought that essentially bullied me into feeling separated from God, from good – such as stress, irritation, tension, impatience. And then I noticed that often those states of thought preceded the debilitating headaches.
So I prayed to more consistently feel the peace of God and live my true, spiritual nature as the child of God. The Scriptures explain, “In him we live, and move, and have our being;... For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28). God gives each of us the freedom and the understanding to live consistently with this real identity, derived from our loving divine creator. This includes expressing qualities such as patience, compassion, and balance.
I leaned on God, who is both all-wise and all-loving, with all my heart and mind. My prayers gave me a newfound freedom of thought as well as action. The fear faded away as I identified more and more with the freedom and perfection of my God-derived health. Within a short amount of time I experienced marked progress. The headaches occurred with less frequency and severity until they finally disappeared. They have never returned in the many years since.
I remain grateful for the healing of the chronic headaches as well as the character transformation I experienced, which epitomizes the true spirit of Christian healing.
If we find ourselves imprisoned by some ailment, even a long-standing one, we can rest assured that the spirit of the healing Christ, Truth, that Jesus so fully expressed is present to open the doors of thought and set us free – for good.