From a Prison to a Palace
The tightening of anxiety in my stomach ate at my insides as I packed my bags. I was nervous about leaving my kids for ten days straight as my husband and I flew off to Italy for the trip of a lifetime. Yet, I couldn’t wait to leave. The relaxation, rest, and uninterrupted face-to-face time with my husband were gladly welcomed. We had moved to New York four years earlier and had only been away together for one weekend since the move. In the time leading up to this monumental trip, we had planted a church with three growing communities in New York City and welcomed our fourth child into the world. There were no signs of life slowing down.
On our last evening in Rome, we made plans to see Mamertine Prison the following morning before heading to Ana Capri in the afternoon. A friend from New York City had told us that the prison in which the apostle Paul had written many of his Epistles was a must.
I woke up the next morning with a sober expectation that this was going to be a pivotal day. We mapped out the walk to the prison and discovered it was only five minutes from our hotel. We walked down a narrow set of steps approaching the Roman Forum beneath Palatine Hill at the bottom of the “sacred road.” We reached the bottom of the stairwell, and to the left was a small door into a minuscule room fit with posters and a small sign that read Mamertine Prison. No line, no fanfare, just a humble door that opened our eyes to the prison whose dank, damp walls witnessed words flowing from heaven to an impassioned man obediently recording each of them in his commitment to the church that Christ had so recently purchased with His perfect blood. These words echo throughout eternity and have deeply transformed my life and the lives of countless others.
The moment I placed my foot on the steps, I began to do the silent ugly-cry. I tried my best to exercise restraint, but violent sniffles and uncontrollable tears rolled down my face, echoing against the prison walls. I was well and truly overwhelmed. In that moment, the tangible presence of God rested upon us, and I was aware of it for the rest of the day. Too soon, the moment was over. We needed to go.
When we arrived in Capri, we stepped off the ferry and straight into heaven. I have never seen anything more beautiful than the island of Capri. Colorful boats lined the shore, bouncing on the small waves of pristine blue water lapping against the pebble beach.
I needed someone to pinch me just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming because surely it wasn’t real. People really don’t live in a place so magical, right? I mean, I had started my day off in a prison and now I was standing in this breathtakingly beautiful place. I was spinning again. The extremes of the day were becoming a bit too much to take in.
We booked into a hotel that friends of ours had recommended called The Palace. They escorted us upstairs to our room, and when they opened the doors I tried not to fall over. It was bigger than our entire NYC apartment, complete with a coastal view that took our breath away and overlooking a perfect Italian sunset!
I was trying to process why this incredible gift was so distressing, when really I should have been giddy with excitement. Why did I feel like I didn’t deserve this? It felt wrong to be in this beautiful, elaborate room in a hotel called The Palace when my day had begun in a literal prison.
I’m not sure I deserve this.
Looking up to heaven from the comfort of my plush, kingsize bed, I bared my heart out loud: “I’m not comfortable with this, God. It’s overwhelming. Starting your day in a prison then ending in a luxury hotel that’s not just like a palace, it’s called The Palace? I can’t handle this.”
Then I shut my mouth as the internal process began.
“Why am I so uncomfortable with this? Why don’t I like being lavished with God’s love? Why don’t I ask Him for more? Why am I more comfortable getting revelation in the prison than I am in the palace? Why do I have an aversion to being treated well? Why do I feel like I have to apologize for taking a romantic vacation with my husband? God, being in the palace feels like a prison because I can’t enjoy it . . . why?!”
Then I heard God speaking to me, as clear as day: “Andi, all of your life you have been serving the God of Just Enough, but I am the God of More than Enough. I can take you from a prison to a palace in just one day if you’ll go with Me. Sometimes it’s a difficult, even irritating journey, but I have a place for you at My table.”
Without knowing it, I had believed a lie that it was selfish to dream big or, dare I say it, even want for more.
Whenever “more” came up, I have always subconsciously labeled myself as undeserving—never expecting too much of God’s desires for my life, including his promises of freedom. In order to avoid disappointment, I hoped little.
I believed a lie that others deserved more, but I didn’t. I had unknowingly allowed this belief system to seep into many areas of my life, and it had kept me trapped in a “just enough” cycle of living.
I heard a whisper from heaven interrupt my thoughts: “I will deliver you from the prison and lead you on a journey to the palace. And yes, the palace is for you, because I love you and desire to lavish that love upon you tangibly. Just know that the palace is also for others, and you must bring them with you.”
(excerpt from She Is Free by Andi Andrew)
Andi Andrew is cofounder and copastor with her husband, Paul, of Liberty Church with four locations in New York City. Liberty Church is soon to be expanding in San Francisco; Swaziland; St. Petersburg, Florida; and a fifth New York location in Brooklyn. In 2015 she launched the She Is Free Conference in order to help women find freedom, strength, and wholeness in spirit, soul, and body. A frequent speaker all over the world, she and Paul have four children and live in Brooklyn.