Unlock Your Shackles

25 09 2013

“The key to freedom is not merely what is written in the bible,

it’s what’s written between our ears.”

{This quote comes from one of the 900+ posts I read last weekend. If it’s from you, please let me know so I can properly credit you! ;)}

As a twenty-something year old, my understanding of God was so skewed that I don’t even want to capitalize His name in this sentence. Whatever it was that I “loved” – it certainly was not YHWH!

It is unfortunate that we liken our heavenly Father to our earthly one. While there are some men who are excellent fathers, the majority are not.

Oh, in public, they’re the model of love and kindness.

Get them home and it’s another story. There they reign like a tyrant – selfish, demanding, and subject to outbursts of anger when they don’t get their way.

Others, sadly, appear to be spineless and impotent.

From these “living” examples, a child develops their concept of what God is like.

I was no exception.

My birth father – Mel – abandoned me, I was told for years. (I learned this was not true just a few years ago…thanks Aunt Katie!)

Abandoned? You must have been really bad if even your own father didn’t want you. That’s what a child’s mind does with this information. The identity issues this causes in a child aren’t worth the momentary pleasure a divorced woman derives from such a put down. This doesn’t inflict nearly as much pain on your ex as it does your child. If you are doing this, please stop!

I grew up believing that I was worthless because of this lie.

To make matters worse, I was adopted by my step-dad. He was the embodiment of all that is selfish, demanding, and wrathful. In addition, he was capricious. One never knew what the slightest disturbance might bring in the way of affection or anger. This isn’t the place to expose him – just suffice it to say that he was a very poor representation of our heavenly Father.

As if this wasn’t enough, the church I attended during my teen years was extremely legalistic; so much so that we didn’t even associate with other churches in the same denomination because they couldn’t “toe the mark!” The “god” these dear, devout believers taught about lurked around every corner; watching, just waiting for us to mess up so we could be punished.

Hmm. Not much different than my step-dad.

I pictured life with God like this:

He and I sat across from one another, a game board was spread between us. With a broad grin on His face, “God” said,

“Let’s play a game and have some fun.”

“How do we play?” I asked.

“Oh, I’m not going to tell you. Just make what seems to be the right move. It will be fun!”

I looked over the various parts – the board, markers, dice…I know what to do!

The dice were scooped up and I tossed them onto the board.

Without warning, “God” reached across the table and slapped me hard enough that I fell to the ground. Red with rage, He said, “That was the wrong thing to do. Try something else.”

A smile lit his face, and He brightly said, “Isn’t this fun?”

I made some other move, and all was well…

…and the game went on.

This was my understanding of “God.”

Perhaps now you understand why He’s provided so many “freakin’ miracles” in and around me. He was determined to show me that He was nothing like what I believed Him to be.

To say that He is patient is a gross understatement. He loved me with an everlasting love, therefore He drew me to Himself with lovingkindness.

He has a great sense of humor, too. Remember the church I mentioned? Well, they had a library. Among the books there was one by A. W. Tozer entitled, “The Knowledge of the Holy.” An avid reader, I checked it out and brought it home. God used that book to begin to break through the lies I believed about Him.

Thanks to a high school English teacher who had a classroom full of foul novels…and a “speed reading” machine in the back corner of the room, I can now read somewhere around 700 words per minute with 85% comprehension. (I asked if I could use the machine instead of reading novels and turning in book reports. He graciously consented – anyone else see the fingerprints of God here? ;))

Despite my reading abilities, after three weeks, I’d read only 26 pages in Tozer’s book.

Well, read isn’t the best word to use. Eaten would be a better choice. I had several versions of the Bible, a dictionary, and a notebook. I spent eight or more hours per day absorbing every word that was written. This influx of information, combined with my Fearful Flight, served to greatly alter how I saw God.

In fact, the entire year was one of a rapid transformation as God used His lovingkindness to continue to renew my mind concerning His character.

It was the year of Problematic Food, and How Can You Say You Understand?

The Bible states, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free,” (John 8:32). By the time that all this took place, I’d read my Bible cover-to-cover no less than six or seven times. I “knew” truth…knew about it, but did not know it by experience until God stepped in and began to reveal Himself. When He said, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart,” (Jeremiah 29:13), that’s exactly what He meant.

Bit by tiny bit, God has been replacing what was written between my ears!

How I love Him today because of His patient teaching. He never gave up on me – even when I was maligning Him and accusing Him of many atrocious and cruel actions against me. In the process, He’s shown me how deep His love is for me.

If He can love me like this…

…Oh how much He loves you!

What we believe about God will determine how we live our lives. If your concept of Him is anything like mine, ask Him to show you the truth.

Like me, you will learn that:

“The key to freedom is not merely what is written in the bible,

it’s what’s written between our ears.”

You’ll hear the sound of shackles falling to the ground – like a gentle spring rain in no time at all as He replaces those old lies with the glorious truth of Who He is.

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Free? Or “Safe”?

24 06 2013

After the festering wounds healed and the swelling subsided, I discovered that the handcuffs and shackles that kept me bound all my life easily slipped off my hands and ankles.

Nevertheless, I kept pulling them back on like bangles that wouldn’t stay put; I wore them like prized jewelry.

Tazein Mirza Saad wrote an article yesterday. Her post began with this quote from Staypositive.me:

“Your past is just a story.

And once you realize this,

it has no power over you.

After I read what she had to say, I had to ask myself why I insist on clinging to my bonds. After all, “big” people no longer have the power to do the unthinkable to me. I am under no obligation to maintain a relationship with people who verbally abuse me or want to manipulate me for selfish reasons. Friends who abandoned me have been replaced with true ones.

I’m old enough to determine how God designed me – and what work He prepared for me. People did not create me, they are not free to define me.

At long last, Jesus has tended to my deepest wounds. Memories no longer hurt, offenders are no longer hated, actions no longer stem from a faulty belief system…

…so why do I continue to wear my shackles?

One reason is that they are comfortable – like an old, worn sweatshirt. Confinement is what I know best. I’ve lived there most of my life. Besides, if I hazard outside of the boundaries others set for me, there is a chance that I might fail. They would be right there to say, “I told you so.”

Another reason is that to walk in freedom means I have to accept responsibility for my own actions. I can no longer blame someone else for my behavior. “They” don’t have the power to “make me” do anything, therefore, “they” are not accountable for my life…I am.

That’s scary.

What if I fumble? What if I fall? What if I make a complete fool of myself?

Fear can keep me in an invisible prison as an adult, if I let it. Safety comes at too high a price, though. I am unable to live life to the full, for at present I’m living on others’ terms, by their standards and rules. I’m tired of living life this way. Bone tired.

Not to mention that those who imposed their wills on me are either dead or long gone! Reality check here, please!

One verse has burned its way into my heart and ignited a passion in me too great to extinguish: “Do I now persuade men? Or do I please men or God? For if I still pleased men I could not be a bondservant of Christ.”

Man is never pleased by what I do, or who I am, for very long. There’s always something to be changed in order to satisfy someone else’s expectations. Not only that, there are so many men and women around me that I’m in constant turmoil as I try to remember who demands what from me. There is no rest from this craziness!

This morning, I slid the shackles from my ankles, the handcuffs from my wrists and assessed them. They are old, rusty, and very heavy. I could “mount up with wings like eagles,” but their weight keeps me close to the ground. I could “run and not be weary”…but not very far, for the chains are short and limit the distance I can move from my old familiar cage. The chains provide me with an excuse to not venture out. I don’t have to take risks…I “can’t,” you see.

I have things to do, places to go, people to see. If I insist on maintaining the status quo, my work will go undone.

I might mess up, though. Then what? I slide them back on. I’ll be safer this way.

Words come to my mind, “Whom the Son sets free, is free indeed.”

I’ve been healed. I can walk in freedom if I so choose.

My past is merely a story. It is fact that cannot be changed. In and of itself, yesterday has no power over me unless I want it to. I can close that chapter of my life and begin on a brand new page. This time I can, with Jesus’ help, write a very different ending.

Here I go. The time has come. I’m giving the fetters to Jesus, and giving myself permission to walk in the freedom He died to provide. My hands tremble as I hand them over.

Maybe I’ll crash and burn. That’s okay. He said, “The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” This means that even if I do fall, I won’t land so far down that He is not there to catch me!

How about you? Are you tired of being a victim, of feeling powerless over your life? Maybe you’d like to join me as I discover what it means to be a “new creation in Christ!”

Ah, the glorious sound of shackles falling to the ground! Can you hear the roaring crowd of witnesses, cheering us on?

We’ve got a race to run…

…let’s get to it!