“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts”. -Isaiah 55:8-9
The first time I traveled to the Middle East, I wanted to send postcards to my children immediately upon my arrival. As soon as I cleared passport control, I went directly to the first store, and proceeded to pick out five postcards to send. I looked at the price on the postcards, and was struck with a sort of sinking sensation. It had nothing to do with cost. It had to do with just how lost I was.
What does that number mean? How much is a Shekel? And much worse, I was starting to realize I was about to interact with a clerk about these questions, and I did not speak his language. I didn’t even know what language he spoke. All the signs had three languages simultaneously. They all seemed to have English, Arabic, and Hebrew. At first I only recognized English. But approach the clerk I did.
I looked at him and didn’t even know where to start. So I started with the only thing I knew; English…and a look on my face that I am quite certain showed just how lost I was. I am fairly certain that he let me squirm for a few moments before he bailed me out, and spoke to me in English. Though I could not speak his language, he could speak mine.
This was to be the first of hundreds of experiences where I learned again and again that as an American, I had only spoken, and thought, and lived like an American. Every encounter I had in Israel, I discovered that while I had not learned their ways, this group of people, Israeli, and Arab alike, had all learned my ways. They made a way for me to interact with them, even while I had no idea that I did not have a way to interact outside my own American mindset.
Prisoner thinking is the way we all think as post Genesis 3 citizens. Along with the fundamental nature change that happened at the fall of man, came a fundamental shift in our way of seeing and thinking. None of us know what it was like to not have prisoner thinking because we have all been born into it. One component of prisoner thinking is the inability to even recognize that another way of thinking actually exists.
By the way, this particular facet of prisoner thinking manifests itself in the dogmatic insistence that it is right! How many ethnocentric American tourists have finally in their frustration with their own limitations, gotten angry that these citizens of the foreign country they are visiting refuse to speak American!! As if the only thing they have ever known, is the only thing to know.
Prisoner thinking began when mankind lost the Spirit of God, and replaced the Spirit with their (our) own knowledge. As I have said, when we lose our glasses we have two problems. Our glasses are lost, and the way we find lost things is what we have lost.
Mankind lost a way of thinking, and lost the very mechanism by which we might actually know what we lost. So now we search for what we think we need, in the ways we think we should.
Another significant element of prisoner thinking is that it focuses on absence not presence. It sees what it does not have, or wishes to do away with. Prisoner thinking does not think about what it does have, or what is possible.
The prisoner defines freedom as getting out of jail, not as fulfilling their destiny. The prisoner defines freedom as stopping behavior, not as embracing the Presence of God. The prisoner defines things this way because of a way of thinking. And the worst kind of prisoner insists to themselves and others that they are right.
In John Chapter 3 Jesus tells Nicodemus, “I have been both in Heaven and Earth, If I tell you Earthly things and you don’t believe me how will you ever believe me when I tell you heavenly things”.
Freedom thinking assumes multiple perspectives, prisoner thinking is locked into only one way of seeing.
Please do not confuse this idea with relativism. I am not describing a mindset that says each person is the source of their own reality. I am describing a mindset where objective reality must be observed from multiple angles and vantage points. At the very least, objective reality must be viewed through material and spiritual lenses. We do not create our own reality, but we do create our experience by the way that we view objective reality.
Simply put, freedom thinking is not limited by prison bars and circumstances.
Much like the other ways of thinking we address in this series, the higher order of thinking can recognize and even practice the lower order, but the lower order is not even aware that a higher order exists.
Jesus, the only post Genesis 3 citizen who did not live by the Knowledge of Good and Evil, was faced with the daunting task, of convincing prisoners that they were prisoners. This was a pre-requisite to helping them move to freedom.
And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains. -John 9:39-41
Prisoner thinking often insists it is free, like the blind men in the above scene, insist that they can see. They believe they can see all that can be seen, because they see what they have always seen. As always the first step to a new way of thinking is the acknowledgment that your way is not sufficient.
Prisoner thinking begins to lose it’s grip when we genuinely see that we are deeply limited and we ask God and others to show us what they see.