What does it mean to walk in freedom? To walk in victory? This is a big topic, and I pray I can do it justice and communicate what the Holy Spirit has shown me over the last almost year of my journey.
I have had a desire to reflect and remember where He has brought me from. I have found that either I have a very convenient memory, or He has so thoroughly freed me from some things that I don’t easily recall how I felt while walking in them. I think probably both are true. I do know that the freedom that Christ brings is thorough and is a beautiful place to be.
I have found within myself a peculiar disconnect between the fabulous and fascinating accounts recorded in His word, and their impact on my life. I grew up in church, you see, so there are so many stories that are as familiar to me as my own name. I grew up accepting that Jesus is the Son of God, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died a sacrificial death, and rose again on the third day to sit at the right hand of the Father and is ever interceding for us. I grew up knowing that one day He will return and call us home, and that He will reign on His throne; that Satan will be defeated, and that He will create a new heaven and a new earth, and we will be with Him for eternity.
Not to be flippant, but those facts were just that…facts. As concrete and indisputable as the sun rising in the east. I accepted them. I acknowledged them. Always.
I think of scriptures that I have always accepted to be true. Such as, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Or, “The thief comes only to still and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” And, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Also, “He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it”. I could list verse after verse that I grew up on, Sunday School memory verses (that I never memorized), Sunday sermons. And I accepted all of it as truth.
I still walked away. I still deliberately sinned. I still chose to live in a manner that was the polar opposite of the life Christ died to give me. I still allowed myself to be so bound up in various lies that I couldn’t tell which way was up.
So if the Bible says that the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, if God is true and faithful, if Jesus died to save me from my sins, if He has already done all the work required to free me from my bondage to sin…why was I still bound? Why did His word have no effect on me?
I found that it was easy to acknowledge intellectually that the stories I grew up with were true, but I think that in some part of my brain I treated it as a simple fact to be filed away, along with 2+2=4, See Spot Run, and other tidbits of learning that we accept growing up.
We all know that what we learned in school rarely sticks around. I couldn’t do algebra right now if someone paid me to. And as much as I loved history, there’s not much that I have retained. I have retained the basics…reading, writing, arithmetic. But most of the rest is something I learned for a test, and it never really impacted my life.
When I was young, I accepted that I was a sinner in need of a Savior, and that Jesus is the only way to God, and I asked Him to save me. And then I proceeded to live out my life as if that action never happened. Or as if it was a task to be checked off (secured my passage to Eternity – check) and now that it was done, I was going to go on about my life. Kind of like my high school diploma.
Oh I had some really beautiful times with God from the point of my salvation until I chucked it all over my shoulder and walked away. Looking back, I know He was real then, I know He had done what His word says He will do when we call on Him to be saved. I know that He had called me to Himself and there were times I listened and obeyed, at least in part.
But He also called me to freedom. And that I did not have.
So many of us believers live out our lives as though we don’t believe. That disturbs me greatly. We pay lip-service to following Christ. Some of us do it deliberately, as a façade, a posture, a posing; others don’t even realize they are doing it. I’ve been in both camps over my brief lifetime.
Some of us don’t pay lip service, we truly, genuinely love Christ and long to live for Him, and yet we’re still bound. So how does it become real? How does what Jesus did for us actually have an impact, make a change, make a difference?
I have had two precious, dear friends share some of their life stories with me recently and my heart breaks because of the chains with which they are still shackled. These are two people who love Christ with all their hearts, who are devoted to Him, and are beset with fears, failures, anxieties, worries, insecurities. I’m not speaking of the trouble we all will encounter while living in this fallen world. I’m speaking of bondage that keeps them from fully living in, and out of, the love of God.
Their stories resonate with me because I’ve been there. I’ve lived with fear as my constant companion, with worry, insecurity, anxiety dogging my every footstep and impacting every single decision I made. And I want them to have the freedom that I have experienced so badly. I want it with all my heart. I have prayed, and will continue to pray, that Jesus will set them free.
Because I know He can. I know He will. It’s His job, and He’s EXTREMELY good at it.
Every freedom story starts with a beginning. Perhaps the beginning is the end of something else. It was for me.
I’ve shared a little about the end of me. It was THE pivot point for me. It was the point where I had no other choice but to reach out to Christ. He was my only hope.
But I didn’t start out where I am today. And I won’t be where I am today in another year, or 5 or 10. This is a process; it can be painstakingly slow, or heart-poundingly fast and sudden. The point is that Jesus is driving, and He will get us where we’re going.
My starting point was bewildered, confused, afraid, unsure. Here is an excerpt from my prayer journal, from the entry dated August 22, 2020: “I have so much tangled up in my mind. Father, please untangle me. Father, please show me the lies I believe and give me Your truth. Please remove the blocks I have that have been years in the making. Why do I have a block against praising You? I don’t feel worthy to offer praise? I feel stupid offering praise? I feel like others will think “who is she, to be talking to and praising God, look at what she’s done.” Even though no one’s around to see, I still feel condemnation and doubt. I’m also afraid to stand in this decision to walk with You. I’m afraid to count on it, afraid I’ll fail and go back to where and what I was. I’m afraid of disappointing You so I don’t want to connect too deeply because I’ll let You down when I fail. I want to fall in love with You but I have such fear. If I count on something, if I let myself need something or someone, I’ll eventually lose it/them, and one day that loss will destroy me and I’ll have nothing to live for, no way or ability to recover. Father, help me. Your word says You will never leave me or forsake me. If I fail again You will still love me and still reach for me. Help me fall in love with You.”
In rereading that to type it in this post, I remember feeling that. I remember being so afraid to trust that He wouldn’t leave me. I felt like I had been left behind all my life, and that everyone I counted on was eventually going to leave. Those last few sentences there were an effort on my part to comfort myself, but also to remind God that He’s the one who said it, so He had to do it. I was also afraid to trust myself. Afraid that what I was feeling wasn’t real. Afraid that, just like every other time in my life, it would start good and fizzle out, and I’d be left worse off than before.
Friend, I need you to know that if it hadn’t worked with Jesus, I was seriously at the end of me, and I can’t tell you that I would have still been here a year later. I don’t know if I would have had the guts to actually harm myself, or if I would have lived so recklessly that I would have put myself in harms way until it took, but either way, I doubt seriously I would have been here. I was at. the. end. I had no more.
I can reread that now from the safety of His arms and see just how perilously close I was to being destroyed. It scares me how close I was.
I can tell you that Jesus narrowed my vision to a pinpoint, to focus on Him and Him alone. He took me on a journey of baby steps for a little while. He had a lot of lies to get through. I can also tell you that He answered the petitions in that first prayer journal entry. He removed the block to praising Him almost immediately. The next day’s entry has a sentence that just says “thank You for answering my prayer, for giving me the gift of praising You.” And He began showing me the lies I had believed.
Lies like I wasn’t worthy of love, that I had to earn the love and favor given to me. That a mistake on my part would forever change that love, diminish it. Can you imagine for a moment the kind of tightrope I walked in my life, believing that at any moment I could lose someone I loved because of a mistake I made? Not only a mistake in the present, but all the mistakes of the past were up for grabs too. Maybe they didn’t know about that, and finding out would destroy the relationship. Maybe you don’t have to imagine. Maybe you know exactly how that feels.
In my world, that kind of fear meant I had to pull back from people I loved because that fear was just too huge. It meant that maybe I couldn’t love them as deeply as I wanted to. It meant that I had to put up a wall, just a little distance between me and them, so that it didn’t hurt quite so bad when I lost them. I was continually prepared for the worst. That way, the disappointment wouldn’t kill me.
Jesus didn’t address those lies from a pulpit. I had heard all the sermons anyway. He didn’t address them through a friend or a mentor. I never could fully trust what they said. He addressed those lies by loving me. In the moment, where I was, with my seething, writhing ball of fear wrapped around me…He just loved me. Every day. Patiently, kindly, persistently. Until little by little I began to trust Him. That He would always love me. That He always had. That His love for me was a living thing that just was. Not because I had scored enough points to earn it, and I didn’t have to work to keep it. He knew all my mistakes, even the ones I hid from myself because I didn’t want to see them. He knows them now. And He still loves me.
Maybe you’ve heard all the sermons too. Maybe you have well-meaning friends (like me) who tell you over and over how much Jesus loves you. But it hasn’t made a dent in your ball of fear.
I will ask you to do one thing. Take the ball of fear and sit down with it, and invite Him to sit with you. Tell Him how afraid you are. Tell Him what you’re afraid of. Show Him. Show Him all your proof that your fear is valid. Tell Him that you fear that you can’t trust Him. Then ask Him to show you the lies you have believed. Ask Him to show you Himself. Not as a dare, don’t misunderstand me. As a genuine seeker, someone who truly wants to know Him. How are you going to be able to trust Him if you don’t know Him?
Put away everything you think you know. Put away everything you’ve been taught or told. Ask Him to show you who He really is. Friend, I can promise you He will.
You will have a choice, to believe or not believe. He will show you who He is, and He will love you, if you let Him. All you have to do is chose to believe.
That’s not easy, and I don’t say that lightly. I say it because I’ve had to do it. I’ve had to choose to shut out every voice telling me to be afraid, and choose to trust Him. It was the most worthwhile choice I have ever made. Because when I gave Him access to the deepest parts of me, the hidden parts with the black hole of fear that I’ve carried all my life, He began His good work in me, and He will complete it.
Every day is a new step in freedom. It’s a walk, not a race, but I know He will get us there. I trust Him.