It had been a long, hot July day for me as the air conditioning in our office was not working. Typically the grocery store was a place where I rushed though the straight isles like a rat searching for its cheese reward at the end of a maze. But this day was different. The coolness and mellow lighting was soothing to me as I leaned on my cart, hoping it would support my tired self.
I turned into another aisle when I saw him. I didn’t know his name, but I had seen him before in the local grocery store. He was a young man who looked about 30 and had mental and physical disabilities. He seemed to always be with the same caretaker, trudging along behind her. But as I said, today was a different kind of day. As I came closer to where he stood, he lifted both arms straight up in the air, looked me right in the eyes and shouted, “HE IS RISEN!” Although I didn’t raise my hands and shout, my knee jerk response was the very answer that we had given in our church on Easter morning. “He is risen indeed!”. His smile back at me was remarkable. His caretaker was disturbed and seemed not to know who to silence, him or me! However, she told him to be quiet and leave people alone. Posturing back to his usual trudge, he put his head down and continued to walk along.
I kept trudging too. It had happened so quickly. I was asking myself, “Did that REALLY just happen?” Then I was ashamed that I had not affirmed his joyful and impulsive act of faith. So I quickly went back to the aisle where they walked and came close with my cart. I looked at him and said, “What is your name?” He told me. I called him by name and said, “Jesus IS risen, and you gave me a good day when you said it right here in the store. Thank you.” He beamed at me. His caretaker politely nodded and said, “We are trying to teach him not to have outbursts.”
My point? This man was free. He may not have been free in his body, but he was free in his soul and his spirit. I believe that the Spirit of freedom can often recognize it in another. Some are more open and perceptive than others. I’m sure I did not appear very free as I tiredly pushed my grocery cart. However, I am free – even when I don’t feel it. So are you.
Now, I am not suggesting we all go out and raise our hands and shout in public places. Then we would be accused of having an “outburst”, and of course we don’t want that. We are too civilized for that. But no matter what time of year, we can celebrate the Easter source of freedom. It is the RISEN Christ.
Like my perception of the grocery store, some of our days are perceived as an endless maze of details and decisions and hot-and-tired trudging along. This earthly life can be a rat race and, of course, we are the rats. But thank God for those free people who startle us as we trudge in the numbing quest for our personal cheese! They spontaneously raise their perspective arms and shout, “HE IS RISEN!” We can choose to join them with the glad agreement that freedom gives, or we can inwardly scold them for having an “outburst” that is inappropriate. We can keep trudging or thank them. We can let them be separate from us, or we can choose to join them.
Are you free? You can be. Despite circumstances or relationships, you can be free. Why? Because true freedom takes a second glance past the disabilities of life and of others, and even of ourselves, and shouts, “HE IS RISEN!” Yes, He is risen indeed.