I almost “chickened-out” of this week’s reflection. I’m sure you can sympathize with being in that sweet spot of knowing exactly what the Lord wants you to say or do and replying “no” with the shaking head and stonewalled force of a three-year-old. “Anything but that Lord. That would make me vulnerable.” If you’ve never been there or are new to this whole Christianity thing and aren’t quite sure what I’m talking about, then try to think of it this way: You find that Jiminy Cricket is suddenly the new voice of your life-hack GPS. (My apologies to Disney.)
On the topic of “breaking free” from an emotional/intellectual self-imposed prison so you can freely have a relationship with the Lord, Pastor Steve encouraged the audience to “share your process…not just your opinion.” “Process creates vulnerability,” he said. “It lets others know there is a way out and they are not the only one. Everyone is on a journey from breaking free from something.” Let me clarify that I do not mean “forget common sense” or “be vulnerable to a wolf in sheep’s clothing that wants to manipulate your emotions”…God gave us wits for a reason. (Even the Bible tells that all we need to do to gain wisdom is ask.) But when I, upon hearing the sermon, naturally thought of the worst “prison” I, personally, have ever been in, I might have actually laughed in God’s direction at the thought of writing about it publicly. I imagine many of you might start comparing journeys with mine…and there’s a good chance that some of you have journeys that have been far tougher, on a human scale, than what I’ve experienced. But this was “my cross to bear,” and I will do my best to succinctly explain the torment I went through before I discovered what the word “freedom” really meant.
When I was in high school, I encountered a writing teacher whom I turned into my idol in place of the Lord. In a nutshell, this teacher of mine convinced all of us that there was one, certain way of writing new material; and, even then, nothing was original. I think he meant to be encouraging so in case none of us ever “made it to the big time,” we’d still feel good about ourselves and whatever abilities we had. However, years later, I would learn that people who teach with a chip on their shoulders out of creative frustration are some of the most dangerous people you can meet. They’ll instill “doubt” for a living in an effort to ease their own pain, often relating to a totally different issue, and destroy dreams in the process. In this particular case, my teacher had a monstrous disagreement with God somewhere in his own college years and decided to structure his whole class not to elicit the best skill from his students, but to start them on a thought process that would lead them away from a relationship with the Lord. (Might I add that Christ does give a dire, metaphorical warning about those who might lead a little one astray. Look it up.)
After taking this “lauded academic’s class,” I felt my relationship with the written word had shriveled up and died. How could I possibly write anything of value if it wasn’t in the exact way this teacher told me to? To paraphrase Albert Einstein, you can go ahead and try to teach a fish to climb a tree, but it’s gonna believe it’s pretty dang dumb for its whole life. I did not know then that writing/movies/the arts/music was how I was able to sense the Lord’s presence in my life. So, essentially, the man who was supposed to be my Christian mentor had let me think I’d discovered that the one, true, living God was, in fact, not living at all. Cunning, but unfortunately effective.
All I knew was that I wasn’t happy. No matter what I did, I couldn’t find that famed, Biblical “peace beyond all understanding.” I tried to be an English major, a Literacy teacher, a journalist, and finally ended up in the medical field as a medical assistant, soon-to-be-nurse. But, one day, I found myself in a church laying my heart out to the Lord I thought had abandoned me. I prayed very simply and out of a very sincere submission: “Lord, please make me happy so I can write.”
Ironically, that’s exactly what Pastor Steve taught in his sermon was one of the keys to freedom…submission. He stated that when you come to church (which could be a metaphor for “submitting to the will of God,” “physically walking into a church and actually listening with both ears,” “applying Scripture to your life,” etc.), God can do amazing things in your life. Without dragging this post on too long, let’s just say that I vowed if the Lord gave me the confidence and fixed and healed my ability to write, that I would only use it for His glory or to lead others to His glory. I didn’t make that “deal” as a bargain. (Trust me, bargaining with God is a bad idea.) But rather, I was so grateful that I found a living God who taught me not to blame others for my failures (in this case self-doubt) and a God I knew could solve everything, that I – without hesitation – handed Him the only gift I had to offer…my words. Now, I may not know how many people this blog reaches, but even one makes my whole journey worth it. I hope that’s you reading this now.
Believe it or not, writing is a talent we all possess in some capacity. Whether it’s writing a note for a loved one or a thank you note to a boss, words are an ever-potent source of life. I encourage you to make yours count.
Pastor Steve’s process for breaking through dirty laundry, so to speak, was presented via an acronym: B.R.E.A.K. F.R.E.E. As a former teacher, I think that’s actually fantastic. Even more awesome was his insistence that submitting to God’s plan and relying on the Lord for help could be used to break out of not only emotional prisons, but physical addictions as well. I’m living proof and happier than I’ve ever been. I encourage you to “face your giants” like David did as long as, again, common sense and safety are considered. (Or you have the stoic advice of a parent or pastor.) The only thing you have to lose is walking through an open door and discovering the truth, and, yes…that it (He/Jesus) will set you free and be more than happy to guide you on your way there. Chances are, he’s already been carrying you further than you’ve realized.
Questions for Reflection:
1. Read the poem “Footprints” and reflect on its application to your life. Can you see at least one way that God’s been carrying you when you’ve been too weak to walk on your own?
2. Have you ever “broken free” from any kind of metaphorical prison, whether physical, spiritual, emotional, or mental? If so, what have been the tools (perhaps doctors, family, or medications) that have helped you see the light, the “Jesus Way”?
3. Spend one minute with your eyes closed, your heart open, your spirit in surrender, and pray the name “Jesus” quietly or even without any sound. Let Him love you.
4. What is the first step you could take to walk out of a “prison” you are currently in? (Please feel free to seek one of the pastors at Capital Christian Center if you feel the need.)
5. What is one practical, safe kindness – large or small – that you could do for a neighbor or friend who may be in need and suffering themselves?
House of Worship: Capital Christian Center – Lacey, WA