True Liberty

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When you’re wrapped up in yourself, that’s the real prison.

 For freedom Christ has set us free. . . . —Galatians 5:1 (rsv)

Dick Riley, accountant

It was twelve-year-old Liz’s turn to go with me on an interview. But, oh dear, I thought as we set out in the car for Pennsylvania, how would she react when she saw Dick Riley?

Sixteen years earlier, an ambitious young man with a wife and a baby on the way, Dick had fallen from a ladder. Paralyzed except for partial use of one arm, his legs had been amputated so he could turn himself in bed.

“You mustn’t cry,” I coached Liz. “You mustn’t act sorry for him.”

Dick’s wife led me to the room where he sat in a motorized bed surrounded by the files of his accounting business. I wrenched my eyes from the sheet—too flat where his body ended at the hips—and met a pair of smiling eyes. “I didn’t used to smile,” he told me. “All I cared about was getting rich fast.” Too fast to follow tedious safety rules for ladder use. As for smiling: “Only at someone who could help me get ahead.”

After the interview, Dick turned to Liz. Who was her best friend? What was her hardest class? “I’ll pray at exam time.” When teenage Dicky came home, his father asked after an ailing schoolmate. A client phoned. “I won’t charge him,” Dick said afterward. “He’s struggling to keep his kid in college.”

And that self-absorbed young man he used to be? “He was a lot more handicapped than I am. Sure, I’m trapped in this useless body, but when you’re wrapped up in yourself, that’s the real prison.”

Grant me the true liberty, Father, of self-forgetfulness. —Elizabeth Sherrill
Digging Deeper: Rom 6:17–18

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