Saturday, January 2, 2016

A Pretty Bird in an Ugly Cage

I wrote this piece a number of years ago for a dear friend in recovery from a devastatingly abusive marriage to a minister.  Recovery from any form of abuse is difficult and it takes time--the amount of time differs for each individual.  As I have walked through my own days of recovery I resonate with this piece even more.  The abuse we know often seems safer than the freedom of the great unknown.  My hope for each of us is that we find our wings and begin to do what we were created to do--FLY!
She didn't know that marriage to Prince Charming would come at such a cost to her freedom.  She was accustomed to flying and the bars of the ugly cage he had prepared for her were shocking and frightening.  She learned to survive in his ugly cage by singing prettily to soothe his rages and by dreaming of what it was like to fly.  She remembered the feel of the wind beneath her wings and the exhilaration of freedom to choose her own destination and destiny.  But dreaming and singing were all she could do because the bars restrained and constrained her world until each day's goal was just to survive somehow, the ugliness and meanness of his bars and tether.

Her freedom from the ugly cage was costly but she paid the price and relished the opportunity to fly once more.  She thought about the myriad of choices facing her and the many destinations that she now could freely set course for.  But the choices and options overwhelmed her; somehow life was simpler in the ugly cage--just sing, dream and long for what could not be realized.  The paralysis that confinement had taught her did not drop off as easily as the door to the cage had opened.  Sometimes when no one was watching she ventured back into the cage and slept in the comfort of its confinement.  The world was large and while she now had the power to make her own choices and to determine her own destiny, that choice was frightening and the cage offered comfort.

So, like the circus elephant that tethered as a babe learns to walk only in the circle his chain allows and does not venture farther than that tight circle once the chain is removed, she flies but in small circles.  There is safety and security in small circles because it is easier to flee back to the safety of the cage.  Flying longer distances away from the cage means potential danger and risk and that is too frightening.  Where will she sleep?  What if she cannot find food?  What about the predators out there looking for pretty birds?

So she spends her days longing for the exotic lands that beckon her; she dreams of the possibilities but continues to feather her nest in the shadow of the ugly cage.  When opportunities come to test her wings once more and to really soar, she finds reasons to stay in the shadow of the cage.  She spends her days singing prettily and flitting about another cage of her own design, still dreaming of the possibilities and desiring to fly but continuing to tether herself.

How I long for the pretty bird to fly once more; to decide on a destination and to set her course.  I long to see her stretch her wings, chart her course and rid herself of the weights that she has designed to keep herself grounded.  She was not meant to live life in a cage; she was designed to fly.  She has the freedom, she has the ability, she has the longing but she is still flying in small, tight circles around the ugly cage.  The dynamic her "Prince Charming" began continues to work even though he is no longer present.  Fly little bird, fly.  Throw off the tethers; stop just dreaming about life's destinations. Spread your wings and soar.

As an addendum--the friend who inspired this is flying--she is soaring in the glory of freedom and I count it a privilege to have her in my life.


  1. Brenda, this was beautiful. I've noticed some of your recent comments on other blogs and you are so right on and "get it".
    I am going through a very tough time.
    Thank you for reaching out in encouragement to many of us.

  2. Dear "HealinginHim,"
    I am so sorry that you are going through a tough time--and I do get it. The Israelites were delivered from slavery in one day but it took 40 years to get the idea of enslavement out of their psyche. Healing takes far longer than enslavement. Keep going, you are not alone.

    Hugs to you,

  3. Brenda, this article resonated with me as an ex-member of a Christian cult. It took time and a healing of the mind to be free of the tethers of that controlling place. Being able to be free to think and have one's own thoughts was liberating. Thank you for writing this. May God richly bless you

  4. Hi Anonymous,

    I hadn't thought about the application to other abusive situations but you are right, it does apply.