I enjoyed a Hill Country Thanksgiving.

            Outside of Fredericksburg, TX at Tim and Carol Bolton’s 100-year old restored German farm home, we ate a free-range (what else?) turkey dinner with trimmings. My son Parker drove out to join us. He lives in Austin and works at Uchiko, the most exciting restaurant in Austin. My oldest daughter, Theresa[1], was there with our grandkids, Asher (9) and Parker Ruth (7 in three days).  Yes, we have two Parkers in the family. Theresa liked her brother’s name so much that she named her daughter, Parker. So, we have Uncle Parker and little Parker Ruth.

            Tim and Carol were responsible for bringing my wife to Christ years ago (before she was my wife, of course!). I have enjoyed many fine meals and bonding conversations with Tim and Carol (and Mac & Gussie!). With coffee (and my chai latte) we have had some wonderful discussions of God’s grace, our righteous identity, and the ministry of our spiritual gifts. On this last trip Tim and I talked about his valuable ministry at a jail in San Antonio. He drives an hour into the city twice a week to teach the inmates about “Our Identity in Christ.”

            Tim isn’t the only one to minister to prisoners. We all minister to prisoners. In fact, I’m a prisoner, still.  You might be one, too.

            All of us, in some way, live with self-imposed limitations . . . like a prison.

Because of the WOUNDS in our past, we have bought into LIES about ourselves. These LIES become the internal argument for our limitations. (I’m not smart enough; I’m not rich enough; God won’t bless me; I can’t get a break; I’m not worthy of success; others keep me down; if I’d only had different parents . . .).

            When I argue for my limitations, I’m like Otis in the old Andy Griffith Show, who would stumble into the jail on Saturday nights and lock himself in a cell. I too send myself to jail, a jail defined by the limitations that I have agreed with. Most of the time I do not even know what these limitations are, and I need a gifted friend to talk through my thoughts (read: LIES) with me.         

            Here is an example from the book of a man I once met.[2] He illustrates this with an ordinary conversation where a person argues,


“I know I am late all the time, but I can’t help it. It’s just the way I am.”


Notice what we can see beneath the surface of such a statement.

  • First, this is a survival-strategy-statement used for covering up, and it is the Flesh.
  • The Subtext is covered up, which is: “Don’t expect from me what I don’t expect from myself, even if I promise it.”
  • By saying, “I can’t help it,” what she mean is that “It’s impossible for me to be on time; I am a victim to my nature; and thus, I am unable to do anything about the hurt I am causing you.
  • “So, since I can’t help it, you would be cruel to require of me to change. In fact, you would look like a Meanie, so don’t do that to yourself.
  • “In fact, a good Christian would never criticize me for being so crippled.”


 This kind of survival-strategy statement reveals clues that I am hiding something. I am protecting myself by hiding from the helplessness I feel in trying to change. I found it too difficult to change. It reveals that I have given up on ever changing. I once longed for maturity, but I found it too hard due to my past circumstances.


            When I give up on maturity, then I am accepting an “I” that I have created. This “I” has become my prison:  I can’t . . . I’ll never . . . I need . . . I will someday . . .

            Now, when life is going some way that I don’t like, feeling out of control, I start resisting everyone else’s behavior which I interpret as controlling me (“I know I’m late all the time”). When I think I won’t survive someone’s feedback to me, then I throw up my fleshly defense to not feel so bad (“I can’t help it”). Or when I become afraid that I’ll be criticized for my misstep, I play a game with you to not look so bad (“It’s just the way I am”).

            This is my hurtful way (Psalm 139:24), and it telegraphs that something is being hidden and covered up.  When I intentionally choose to argue for my hurtful way, I am arguing for my limitations, and I am confessing that I have given up on growing into maturity.

            “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7 (KJV). So is he . . . in prison.




[1] Theresa paints decorative antlers for her store in Fredericksburg, that you women will want to check out.

[2] Dan Tocchini, The Twinkle of an “I”

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