It is amazing how that we as human beings can hold ourselves prisoners in our own minds. Sometimes, we are simultaneously both the prisoner and the warden in the places we do not have freedom in. What’s worse, is that a great deal of the time we are oblivious to the fact that we have created these places of being imprisoned in our ways of thinking and being. Whether it is a conscious or unconscious fear about gaining the approval of others, our self-worth or some area in our life we feel we are inadequate, there are places that we keep back in the recesses of our mind. Places of shame, loathing, and discontentment.
In truth, a great amount of my life has been spent struggling with these very things. As human beings and as believers, we all struggle with these things, but the “good news” is there is freedom to be had. That freedom is found in one place alone; in Jesus Christ.
For the sake of time, I am going to give you a very condensed version of events of my life and this past weekend experience and the wonderous and miraculous love and power of God working for me.
I grew up in a very particular sect of Christianity, very steeped in legalism. It was dogmatic, controlling, full of fear and one might even say was cultish, to put it gently. In addition to this, circumstances surrounding my parent’s relationship, my birth and very existence was a matter of great controversy in our family. Because of that, I never felt accepted and often felt ostracized and ridiculed. From birth you might say and early on, I felt that there was some reason why I was not accepted, admired, loved or respected. Being a kid, I did not understand all of the depths and intricacies of those things at play that were not my own doing, but
somehow, I internalized a great deal of those things as having something to do with myself.
Fast forward to the age of ten, my parent’s divorce and I was being raised by my dad. I was raised by a single parent in a home that was full of the religious environment I previously described. My dad passes away when I am 22 and then the rejection and judgement I felt was amplified.
Some years later, when I left this particular sect of Christianity and discovered the truth of who God is and His love for me, in the back of my mind, I still struggled with the idea of being rejected and even being seen as inadequate by people to fulfill my calling as a pastor based on the judgement I constantly felt in the back of my mind.
“So why are you sharing all of your life story in this column?” you may be asking. Because here is the climax of this story. This past weekend after being on vacation, I attended my family reunion. Going to the family reunion, I had a lot of old fears rise up in me and a lot of defensive things went into position. I had not been to a family reunion in several years, but felt because so many were progressing in years, there might not be much of an opportunity left to see this side of my family.
When I got there, some of my family I adore I was so glad to see, others I had not seen yet, I had reservations about how I would feel, knowing full well the kind of thoughts they would have in their hearts concerning me. “But God”, yes, that is a huge statement, but God who loves me so, knew what was ahead for me and He so lovingly gave me courage. Courage to be forgiving and to love.
Here is the miracle and the freedom; many of those I felt hurt by over the years and even rejected by, God showed me in that brief period of hours, their frailty. God gave me the power of His love in those hours and I was able to embrace, speak to and kiss on the cheeks people who I had felt rejected by and even judged and condemned by throughout my entire life.
God gave me the power to love with His love when faced with great uncertainty all unbeknownst to those who were present and family. That day, I discovered the true power of God’s anointing, His love and most of all His approval of me.
I had been set free from a prison that I did not even know I still was a prisoner of for so long. People say God does not perform miracles anymore, but He did in me that day. Because piece by piece, God makes all things new in our lives if we let Him.
On the morning we left, my wife Judy, who has always been my biggest advocate and my strength was sitting next to me. As I was starting to pull out of the parking lot of our hotel, I turned to look at her and I said “God has set me free”. It was as if a lifetime burden had been lifted off of me and my eyesight had been clarified to see things about myself and God in a new way.
You may be thinking well “God did that for you, but my life, family and circumstances are different.” It doesn’t matter, He is faithful, kind and loving and His plans for you are for you not against you, but to prosper you. He will complete the good work He has begun in you as well.
Everything we need for our own fulfillment, purpose, self-worth and identity is found in Jesus Christ alone. Not any other person can give you, create in you or supplement for you, what you need to have freedom, to be free from old fears and even shame and condemnation. Only Jesus can do that. He took our shame and He nailed it to the cross and our value our worth is forever established in the price He paid to have us with Him for eternity.
My closing statement is this; “Live for the audience of One.” If we will make God our top priority and take our cues from Him, we will give and fulfill in us, everything we need. That includes our need to feel accepted, loved, approved of and whole. In fact, that is one of the core values of the good news of the Gospel.
I leave you with the words and the promise of Jesus for fulfillment in your life: Matthew 6:33 New King James Version (NKJV)
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
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