My Two Nights in Prison

Cell 120 in the A-Wing was my room at the Oxford Castle prison.Well, actually at the Malmaison Hotel, located in the former prison of the 1,000-year-old Oxford Castle. It’s only fitting that Malmaison—bad house—would turn this ancient gaol into a classy guest house.The word that best describes the hotel is “dark.” From the minute you walk in, you realize the 15-inch thick walls effectively shut out most light. Small windows offer little help.My “cell” was actually 3 cells—thus quite spacious. Originally each cell held one person, but later up to five. Blacks and browns in the decor added to the atmosphere. The metal door was surely original to some previous century.Informational stepping stones outside the prison traced the history of Oxford Castle from William the Conqueror in 1066 through a medieval “gaol,” a prison for religious and political prisoners during the civil war, years of disrepair and restoration, county offices and a relatively modern-day prison that closed in 1996.I’m sure that any prisoners residing in my cells felt trapped and hopeless. But sometimes most of us feel that way, without bars and thick walls and steel doors. I know I have.We make our own cells. Author and clergyman Henry van Dyke put it this way: “Self is the only prison that can bind the soul.” We let the “issues” of our family dysfunctions and personality disorders and character weaknesses—and our sin—wrap chains around our hearts and minds.Gratefully there is a key to unlock our prison doors. In announcing his ministry on earth, the Lord Jesus said, “He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners.”Freedom from the past, from fears, from bad choices, from those who torment us, from failures. Yes, those things will still be in our lives, but they no longer have power to imprison us when we take Jesus at His word:So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.