This post’s title comes from something I recently heard my son say while playing video games. He’s often connected to a few friends as he plays, and keeps up a running conversation about what they’re doing. I don’t know what game he was playing or the circumstances that led to it, but he voiced whatever dilemma his character was facing: “I created a cage, and I can’t get out of it.”
The first thing that you might notice about this statement is the absurdity. How do you get yourself in this predicament, trapping yourself like this? What happened where you get stuck in a cage of your own making? And then, maybe one wonders about your own lack of ability to get out: maybe you misplaced the key or the code that would open the door, or even worse, maybe you hadn’t intended for the prisoner to ever be released and so you didn’t even include such a method.
I’m not sure it’s that far-fetched to conceive of becoming caged by our own devices. We don’t have to be gamers for this to happen. We have many other ways to do this to ourselves.
I’ve known people who have become stuck in cycles of self-sabotage, where just as they seem to be finding their footing, something happens to cause their descent back into destabilization. And the only common denominator in this repetition is their own attitude or behavior.
I’ve known churches who know they need to change and that their current path is one of decline, yet when new initiatives are proposed they find ways to resist following through. And so they continue to get the results they’re getting.
The shooting in Buffalo this past weekend was the latest in a long pattern, and yet powerful people have long been resisting changing any of the factors involved: gun access, the radicalization of young white men, the perpetuation of the “great replacement theory” by prominent voices, the lack of support for mental health. Violence is what this current system produces.
These are the cages we’ve built for ourselves. But we may be slow to realize that they’re cages, or our own part in making them, or that we’re our own jailers.
It doesn’t have to be this way. But our own need for comfort or familiarity, or the uncertainty that change may bring, or our fear of failure, or our desire to ignore the possibility of our own complacency, or the extent of how much we’ve internalized the messaging that the current way is the only way may keep that cage door shut.
The most amazing thing is that the door isn’t locked. We could leave if we wanted to. But it means asking questions, making changes, and facing ourselves honestly.
Could we do that?