Truly Free . . . .

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves
be burdened by a yoke of slavery.”

Galatians 5:1

Freedom is something we long for and yet often eludes us.  Many times we attribute our struggle to low self-esteem forged in our past that keeps us in bondage. I believe it runs deeper than that.  As I have said to many clients over two-and-a-half decades, 

It’s not your self-esteem that’s the problem.
Rather, it’s your esteem for Christ that will truly make you free.

Perfectionism defined:

1. The theological doctrine that a state of freedom from sin is attainable on earth.
2. A disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable.  (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary.)

Speaking from personal experience, I would add a third:

3. Perfectionism is a robber of joy when pursued apart from Christ Jesus.

After battling depression for many years, what freed me from that pattern of self-destruction came one night in a dream. (At least I think it was a dream, even though to this day it remains so very vivid in my mind.) In that dream:

I saw myself standing next to God on a mountainside, our back silhouettes enhanced against the setting sun. How did I know it was God? I cannot say, I just did. As we stood together I realized that we were looking across a landscape that represented my life. There were rolling hills and steep valleys, winding roads and straight. As I took in the sizable expanse that represented my life up to that point I recognized the pain of rejection and betrayal in many of the valleys as well as delightful paths I had enjoyed with others. As the sun continued to set and the light shifted, I saw beauty (and even hope) in the darkest places as I realized that He had been with me every step of the way.

I cannot tell you how long we stood there, God and I . . . but I can tell you that it was a transforming moment that warmed my heart as never before. I realized then, that having been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, I could for the first time in my life say that I liked me! I gave thanks to God in that moment for both the dark and light places, because I realized that they all came together by God’s design to make me, “ME”. 

As I reflected on all that I saw, I understood that I would not have the sensitivity to the pain of other people (having counseled for over twenty-five years) were it not for the pain of my past. In my having experienced the darker places–inflicted by others or by my own hand–I more readily embrace the sovereign goodness of God over my life. Only in the blood and saving work of Christ Jesus are we truly free! 

To this day I continue to be encouraged by the impact of that dream, giving thanks to Jesus for freeing me to live for, love and serve Him with a glad heart. I share my story with you in the hope that, if you are in bondage to your past or to perfectionism, that you will embrace the only One who can make you truly free . . .

        “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because,
     having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life
     that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” 
James 1:12

Now a slave has no permanent place in the family,
but a son belongs to it forever.
So if the Son sets you free,
you will be free indeed.”

John 8:35, 36

All to His Glory!

 

Hope in Evil Times . . . .

After being on the road for fifty-nine days and exploring over ten-thousand miles of this beautiful country, it took us a while to get back into the routine of what we’d left behind.  We have been grateful to catch up with the people we love sharing our lives with.  Yet we yearn for the comfortable simplicity of those fifty-nine days of discovery.  We miss following the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, who spent two-and-a-half years carving out a pathway for others to follow in the 1800’s.  We also miss discovering parts of the old Route 66 that connected towns large and small in an increasingly mobile society in the 1900’s.

As I reflect back on our travels,
it is not just the beauty and diverse landscapes we miss exploring–
we also miss connecting-the-dots of the history across this nation
that was especially gratifying.  DSC00803

Since our return, my husband has remarked numerous times, that the two things we saw most consistently as we camped our way through vast cities and the smallest of towns were, first of all churches and secondly Dollar General (or Family Dollar) stores.  The saddest thing we saw were many of those churches appearing abandoned.

Since our return home, the one thing we did not miss during our travels–the daily, sometimes constant pounding of national and international news–has hit us especially hard.  We miss the protective bubble that surrounded us as we mostly listened to audio-books.  I suppose that is why reading the wisdom of Solomon, brought a chill to my bones several days ago:

“As fish are caught in a cruel net,
or birds are taken in a snare,
so men are trapped by evil times
that fall unexpectedly upon them.”
Ecclesiastes 9:12

With every day that passes, the news reports of atrocities inflicted on innocent people fill us with dread.  How are we to live as the darkness of evil appears to become increasingly pervasive?  

I was grateful for the wisdom of the Scriptures as I reflected on this question:

  • Romans 12:19 & 21 directs our steps with, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone . . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
  • I John 5: 11, 12 reminds us to love those around us with the light and hope of the Gospel:  “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in the Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
  • Revelation 17:14 affirms the light of our future, when evil will be defeated and cast away forever:  “They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them (and) with Him will be His called, chosen and faithful followers.”

No matter what is happening in your life or around the world, if you know Christ, be encouraged that:

  1. You are not alone and
  2. Because of Christ, you have every reason to be filled with hope.

How are we to access that hope when darkness threatens?

  1. By making prayer a priority–talking to God rather than just to yourself–when troubling news hits.
  2. By investing time in searching the Scriptures to maintain a healthy perspective on what is reported in the news as well as what you are personally dealing with.
  3. By committing to live out what you are gleaning from the Scriptures–there’s nothing better to activate the truth of what God says.
  4. Finally, be encouraged by the wisdom of Jesus who dispels darkness with the Light of Hope:

“Why do you worry about clothes?
See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.
Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor
was dressed like one of these. . . .
But seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Matthew 6:28, 29, 33 & 34

All to His Glory!