Do you get sick of hearing people say “I’m free! I’m so glad the chains have been broken off! I love this freedom I am now experiencing for the first time!” I don’t blame you. It can be annoying at times, yes…..but. There’s always a “but”. BUT, I have to say, it’s happened to me. I’ve become one of those “annoying” people! I always thought I was free, that I was “saved” and going to Heaven, chains weren’t really “on” people and thank goodness I was one of those that didn’t grow up experiencing that. But. There it is again. When a horse runs in a big race, they wear these blinders on the sides of their eyes, as to not be distracted by anything and anyone else around them. They just see straight ahead, going through the motions of doing what they’ve been trained to do, just trying to make it to that finish line. Once they get to that finish line, they don’t even realize what it is they just accomplished. They just know they are exhausted, thirsty, and ready to collapse. The thing is though, a horse was made to run wild, to live free of the rigors of stress and exhaustion and training for their entire life. They were made for speed and beauty and a certain kind of carefree joy that’s experienced only in freedom! Kind of like….us.
This is a post that may need you to take your dial, the dial that you’ve only known, the dial that has formed you into who you are for today, and to crank it one notch to the right (or if you like to be a little quirky, go ahead and turn it to the left!). I have said this before in past posts, but if you find yourself squirming, your breath catching, or a wall or shield going up, take notice, stop and examine why.
If you are friends with me on Facebook, I have been talking a lot about “being free”: freedom from chains, freedom from religion, freedom from checklists and freedom from trying to earn God’s love. These are just a few of the examples that come to mind. I want to do my best to explain this newfound freedom I have found in His arms and want to take you along for the ride.
Fear is crippling. It stops so many from becoming what they were made to do. It can also be a great disguise, in the form of excuses, for what we want to cover up. We always have an answer for it, we may try to tuck it into a little corner of our bed and make it cozy, we take it on vacation with us and we bring it to all the family Holidays. We try to put it in the corner for “being bad”, we hide it behind a chair or a coat rack or lock it in the closet, but at night, like a little sleeping toddler, it shakes your shoulder, jolting you awake, disturbing your sleep, causing you to toss and turn, while yearning for the morning sun to just “rise already”.
We have created this life for ourselves. We say we love God, want to do want He wants, want to follow His path and what He has for each of us, but let’s just be real. We all want to be our very own “god”. We control our circumstances (and we like it that way), we manage our children that we’ve created together (because they are a reflection of us), we rise and fall within our jobs that we go to everyday (because our talent and abilities and self worth are on the line), etc. When one of these things takes a turn for “the worse (in our eyes)”, fear can set in. We start looking at what we’ve done “wrong” and how we can clean it up. We start praying on our knees for God to reveal to us what we need to do in order to receive His blessings again. We start panicking because we feel all loss of control. And we say, “God, I give this all to you! I need your help!” all the while gripping every ounce of this life we’ve created in the palm of our hands, refusing to let it go. Life has now turned into this mucky, cloudy mess and we don’t like how it makes us feel. We need to find out where we’ve gone “wrong” so it can be rainbows and sunshine again. All of a sudden, this “stuff/choices/things” somehow become the sin. We look at what action we can take, what things we can purge, what prayer to say, to make it all go away, yet nothing changes.
Did you ever stop to think that maybe there’s a different way. Did you ever stop to think that you don’t have to be exhausted anymore? Did you ever stop to think that all this guilt that is buried in your chest and on your shoulders doesn’t have to be there? Did you ever stop to think that maybe the “stuff” isn’t the sin, but that we are the sin? We are dead. Nothing we can do, NO WORK on our part, will change that.
Out of fear, it can be taught, “close your eyes to that sin, it’s evil.”
Out of fear, it can be taught, “don’t bring up that subject. We will discuss it when you are older.”
Out of fear, it can be taught, “don’t listen to that music, it’s not pleasing to God.”
Out of fear, it can be taught, “don’t move your body to the song like that, it’s also evil.”
Out of fear, it can be taught, “don’t let that touch your lips, it’s poison.”
Out of fear, it can be taught, “don’t put that design or mark or word on your body, it’s sinful.”
Out of fear, it can be taught, “don’t hang out with “those” people, they make choices that are sinful.”
I have no doubt that all of these actions are taught from a loving place within. The intentions are good, the love is sound, the hope present. But there’s something else that I have found as well. I have found that these actions are taught, out of fear, because if a child comes into contact with any of this, it just may perk their curiosity and cause them to run to the “stuff”, instead of away. Do you see? FEAR is now placed as the most important aspect of life instead of TRUST in a Heavenly Father who will direct and lead and guide.
Do you notice the one characteristic with each of these “fears”? Each statement being said is making the ACT or the CHOICE, sinful. So it’s easy to teach, out of fear, that these CHOICES make one unclean, make one a “sinner”. And while making these “CHOICES” become the evil, it puts the attention back onto ourselves and the work that needs to be done (BY US) in order to have God be pleased and love us. Do you see? These performance-based activities will NEVER match up. We’ll never be good enough. We’ll always fail, because each one of us is born INTO sin.
It can be taught that if we stop doing these evil things that are the sin, it will please God, He will love us deeper and He will bless us more in our life.
It can be taught, out of fear, that somehow, by our own actions, and by setting the bar higher, God will be happy with our choices and He will love us more!
See, it can be taught, out of fear, that if we do any one of these things, judgment will fall on us, God will be disappointed, and repentance will be required.
Out of fear, our children can be taught to carry guilt, shame, judgment, and the push to try harder at maintaining perfection, yet as they grow, they realize they can’t meet this perfection and by the end of high school and into college, rebellion hits full force, God is tossed into the breeze that blows by, and the parents feel like failures because “we let them do too many “wrong” things and we let them hang out with “those” people too much”. And I shake my head in sadness at the realization that once again, the “stuff” is being blamed for making the child “sin.”
Instead of having been given the tools on how to handle these things the world throws at you, they’ve been handed guilt, fear, shame, judgment, and disappointment (at not being good enough) that lends itself to the belief that perfection is what should be attained. The hands have been slapped, the groundings put into place, the rules enforced stronger, and the yelling louder.
Anything sound familiar? Sitting back in your chair yet as your heart absorbs what’s being said? Do you feel doom and dread hovering over you like your own personal little rain cloud? Well, here’s where the exuberant joy comes in, where the chains can start to bend and creak, where the oil can be applied to help break them off.
Jesus says in Mark 7:15
“There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”
He then repeats to His disciples in verse 18-20, 23 what He just told the crowd before:
“Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods? What comes OUT OF A PERSON is what defiles him….All these evil things come from within and they defile a person.”
Friends, the things of this world are not the sin. These “things” do not make us clean or unclean. I have earth-shattering news for you. YOU are the sinner. And to make it even clearer, YOUR heart is where the sin lies. And because we are sinners, we are going to be drawn to these things the world throws at us. This is going to happen, ALL because sin entered the world, when Eve ate the fruit and gave it to her husband to eat as well. It’s a punishment we are condemned with, not something we can control or not control! What freedom I had in this, after realizing this very thing! My choices didn’t make me good or bad or better than the next person!!! I am ALREADY sin! What FREEDOM!
And this is exactly why we need a Savior. This is why we needed someone else to do the work for us because we are already dead at the bottom of the ocean. Our hearts long for the things of this world, long for the “sin”, long to keep gazing, long to reach for it. It’s all because WE are the sin and not the stuff.
Hold on, because here it comes.
In steps Grace. Grace of a Father who knows this already and has sent His son to do the work for us. Grace of a Father who knows we are going to fail time and time again, but One who is always there to keep chasing and pursuing us. Isn’t it time to finally start believing and knowing that you are nothing without Him? Isn’t it time to acknowledge that you are so dead in who you are that you need this Father to quench your thirst, to save you from your exhaustion, this race you’re trying to do on your own? Are you ready to take those blinders off?!
Do you understand, friend? Nothing you can do will make God love you more. God has offered us a great gift in the form of grace. What a gift you can give your children this Christmas: the gift of grace! Grace that WHEN they fail, they are taught that it’s ok because their hearts are sinful! Grace to talk out with them all the things this world will throw at them because we live in a sinful world and it’s normal! How about giving our kids the tools to handle these things when thrown at them, while teaching them why we choose NOT to do these things. We teach them this is exactly the reason why we needed a Savior who came, bled, died, and rose because it’s normal to “want” the things of this world.
What if we all stopped to examine our hearts and realized these “checklists” that we try desperately to have perfect could all be thrown in the trash? What if we look at our hearts and make the choices to NOT do certain things out of our desperate love for Him, from the depths of a humble heart, all while knowing we will be fighting the urge to RUN to the world because the world makes it so much easier?
And to know: This. Is. Normal.
And to know: God. Knows. This.
I don’t know about you, but there is freedom in this! There is freedom from the performance of checklists that try to earn God’s love. There is freedom in letting the fear fly and taking hold of trust. There is freedom in knowing that you are already loved. You are seen and you are already His.
So get out there and “Fly with Abandon!”