This morning the CBC Radio program “Ideas” looked at the life and writings of imprisoned Turkish novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan. He had been charged under Article 301 of the Turkish penal code that criminalises “denigrating Turkishness,” later arrested, then freed, then re-arrested. He writes from prison on bits of paper given to his lawyers, then reassembled, his prison memoirs entitled I Will Never See the World Again. In it Altan tells how (much to his own surprise) he found himself stumbling into a defining moment.
While being transported to prison a guard offered Altan a cigarette. Though indeed frightened, Altan heard himself responding “I only smoke when I am nervous.” He had no idea where these words came from! But the statement changed his life. He had unwittingly defined himself and set his stance and given himself courage for all which followed.
“Once you refuse to play this assigned role, instead doing and saying the unexpected, reality itself is taken aback…” he writes. ”Reality could not conquer me. I conquered reality”
This is akin to what Paul prays for the Ephesians, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” (Eph. 3:16-17a).
Jude writes something similar, “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” (Jude 20-21).
This can be accomplished only “with power through his Spirit,” by “praying in the Holy Spirit.” [“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4:31).] There is this other Being living within the Christian. One Who speaks through you if you allow Him. One Who redefines you with each speaking… transforms you… gives you courage in each moment, and takes you each time one step closer to being “conformed to the image of Christ.” (See Rom. 8:29).
By submission to the Holy Spirit you find power to “refuse to play this world’s assigned role,” you replace panic with hope, you allow the Spirit to speak through you, empower you, and do “all things.” Christ conquers the temporal realities of this world by the greater eternal realities of His kingdom.
“…for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 5:4-5).
Note: Ahmet Altan currently remains in Turkish prison under sentence of life without parole as Covid-19 spreads throughout the facility. Efforts continue to seek his release. Link to the CBC Radio “Ideas” episode here.