Written Nov 2014: So I’ll stand with arms high and heart abandoned. In awe of the One who gave it all.
So I’ll stand my soul Lord to You surrendered, all I am is yours.
I love that chorus. Eyes closed, hands in the air, praising the One who is worthy of my worship. It is there that all the other things of life disappear. There that my heart feels so enlarged that it takes over my whole being with the sole purpose of glorifying God. There that I can simply breathe because He knows me – all of me – and loves me anyway. There I am free.
Freedom, I have learned, comes in degrees, or stages, or layers… however you want to think about it. It isn’t just bound one minute and free the next. Although it may seem that way to some, it is not the case. Just as a prisoner who has been incarcerated for years is finally freed, they don’t simply go back to “normal” life the moment they are released. The habits of incarceration are with them. The routines they learned in prison are ingrained. Waking and sleeping times, requiring permission to do simple things, watching your back… they don’t simply disappear once they are outside of the prison cell. They are carried into their new life. And although they are free, they may still live the same way they did in prison. Because it is what they know. Learning to live in freedom takes time, and practice and vulnerability. It is scary to try something new. But, without venturing out, they could be free without being free. Their invisible chains still bind them. It becomes a life-long pursuit of true freedom, and most don’t get very far.
Even in worship, we could all be singing the same chorus mentioned earlier. Some will be enjoying the music and “feeling good,” while others will be experiencing the complete joy and freedom of being in the presence of the Almighty. Others will find themselves somewhere on the spectrum in between. Why the difference? It is the chains. Each of us is bound. Bound by fear, or anger, or pain, or burdens, etc. And the degree to which we are able to shake off those chains is the degree to which we are able to experience true freedom. Sometimes we are able to drop our chains long enough to get a peek at freedom, then we quickly pick them back up again. Other times we can drop them and leave them, but soon they find their way back to us. And other times we can be released from them, but the new freedom is so scary that we seek out our old chains and find them and hold them close to ourselves imagining that we are still bound by them because there is a safe familiarity there. And although we are free, we chose to live as though we remain bound, because it is what we know.
How then can we be truly free?
John 8:36 says, “Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
Galations 5:1 says, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”
Hebrews 12:1-2a says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith….”
Freedom, true freedom, is only found in Christ. And yet, even though Christ redeems us and sets us free, we so easily return to our chains. They become our crutch, to excuse us from proper behaviour. They become who we are, we define our life by them, and never move forward. We polish them, nurture them, display them, but never learn to leave them behind. What are the keys to moving on?
In the verse from Galations, we are told to “stand fast.” This wording reminds us of another passage, Ephesians 6:12-17, where we are told to take up the whole armor of God and stand. Keeping ourselves from becoming entangled is a fight. We cannot be passive. We must fight to maintain our freedom.
The writer to the Hebrews tells us to throw off our chains and run with perseverance. He didn’t say walk with perseverance. He said run. We have to put a distance between our new free life and our old bound one. And that takes effort. How easily we can turn back to our old habits. How clearly the shiny chains call our name. But we must persevere.
How then do we find the strength to fight, to persevere? The writer to the Hebrews goes on to tell us. Fix our eyes on Jesus. He is our shelter, our peace, our strong tower. He gives us the strength to do all things. It is only by Him that we continue to breathe at all. So let us simply breathe. Fix our eyes on the One who is worthy. Drop our chains and bask in the freedom of His presence. And today, this minute, I’ll stand, with arms high and heart abandoned…