Freedom is Harder Than It Looks

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Freedom is harder than it looks.

It doesn't matter what the bondage was: addiction, insecurity, abuse, dysfunction, self-destruction...

Once you break free, you must keep working to remain free. 

You must unlearn the bondage and rewire a new way of thinking and being.

In his autobiography, Booker T. Washington reflects on what occurred after the Emancipation Proclamation. For a few minutes, he writes, there was unbridled celebration. But the celebration quickly dissipated by the time the former slaves returned to their cabins. "The great responsibility of being free, of having charge of themselves, or having to think and plan for themselves and their children, seemed to take possession of them."* Where would they go now? How would they earn a living? Because of this, many of the newly freed slaves decided to stay with their former masters.

Freedom is harder than it looks.

"If only we had died by the Lord's hand in Egypt," the Israelites said once freed. "There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death" (Exodus 16:3).

Freedom requires breaking ties with a former way of living, but in the process, it opens up a new future full of uncertainty. At least when you were in bondage there was some semblance of order, of routine, of familiarity. We forget the abuse and desire to shackle ourselves to captivity once more.

For two years I was on staff at a spiritually abusive church. It was toxic. I knew things were "off," but I didn't realize just how wrong they were until I told some of my pastor friends and my spiritual director. One by one, they all cried with me and told me, "Christina, you are in an abusive situation."

I resigned from the church, was bullied and then fired for telling them why I was leaving (!), but I was free.

Or so I thought.

As horrible as the situation was, I sometimes find myself wondering whether I should have stayed. At least I was doing ministry. At least I was pouring into the next generation for Jesus. At least I was getting payed. At least I had something on my resume. There was abuse, but there were rewards (which is how an abusive relationship works).

You see, as resilient and strong as you may be, your bondage will try just as hard to keep its talons in you. Evil will come knocking on your door and ask you to come back.

Evil rarely goes down easily. Becoming free from it is hard work, but remaining free just might be even harder.

Freedom is a process. It takes a holy tenacity to not just become free, but to keep moving toward freedom. With God's grace, I am learning how to raise my flag of freedom high. "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free," Paul writes. "Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1).

So stand firm. Renounce your captivity to sin and abuse, and instead shackle yourself to the freedom Christ gives you.

Break free and stay free.

*Washington, Booker T. Up From Slavery. Penguin Books, 1986. Page 21.

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