I Am Willing

I spent a lot of time walking a path of self destruction and pain. Whether created by my own hand or others, it really didn’t matter. It looked the same. It led to the same dark places. And once there, there seemed to be no escape.

Having been brought up in the church I knew all about Jesus. But here in the darkness I felt unworthy to even say His name. The enemy always reminding me of my failures and shame. Telling me that I had to fix myself before Jesus would have me.

That is a lie.

While that time is easy to refer to as an example, that hasn’t been the only time I have heard that lie. The accusations and shame are always a whisper away. Each time I mess up. Each time I do something that would not please the Lord. My first instinct is to fix it. Quick! Don’t let Jesus know. Cover it. Hide it. Undo it. And do it before I come to Him again. Sometimes I can’t “fix it.” Then I delay coming to Jesus. The accusations become louder and that feeling of unworthiness creeps back in.

It is a lie.

Jesus never asked us to be perfect before we call His name.

Luke 5:12-13 reads:

While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”  Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.

Notice that the man wasn’t healed before he called out to Jesus. Notice that Jesus touched him before he healed him. He reached out to touch him in the middle of his illness. He touched the open sores and the broken pieces of his body. “I am willing” he said. This is our Jesus! This is the truth! He is willing to reach you in your mess! He is willing to touch me in mine. What do we need to do? Make it all better first? Heal ourselves first? Become perfect first? No.

All we need to do is call His name… “Jesus, touch me!” He is willing!

We are all going to fail. Frequently. But don’t let the enemy keep you down. Don’t listen to the lies that will keep you from calling out to Jesus. Remember… what God says about you is what you need to believe. You are chosen, redeemed and free.

Remember who you are, and call out to Jesus!

 

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Free to Love

Now that I have been filled with the Spirit, I am experiencing levels of freedom I have never known before. I am enjoying physical freedom in the wearing of scarves. For me, the scarf represents a final release from bondage that has lasted more than 25 years. But there are also other bonds that the Spirit is releasing me from – ones I didn’t realize I even had.

My first husband made it very clear that he didn’t love me – never loved me. And living in that reality day in and day out, I learned to build walls around my heart to survive. I told myself that I didn’t need love, I was fine without it. It didn’t matter. I was tough. I built the walls high and fortified them well. The problem is, as humans, we need love. Without it we may be alive, but we don’t live. We wither. Our hearts grow cold. What I didn’t realize was that in all my efforts to protect my heart, I built walls so thick that I made it difficult to express my own love. My emotions became stunted, my outlook – cynical, my humor – sarcastic and my first reactions to anything – defensive and angry. These walls ended up trapping me in a dungeon of my own making.

Since love is one of our basic human needs, is it any surprize that God is described as love? (1John 4:8). A relationship with Him is one of our basic human needs. Without it, we never fully live. We were designed to be loved by Him. That love becomes the rock that we cling to in the storms of life and the cornerstone that we build our lives on. Without it we are in a constant free fall. Ungrounded. Sinking into chaos. Being able to fully experience God’s love and express that love to others is part of the work of the Spirit. In order for that to happen in me, the walls need to come down. No matter how many gifts or fruit of the Spirit I may be given, without love, they are useless (1Cor 13:1).

The Word tells us that “who the Son sets free is free indeed” (John 8:36). I have already been freed from my self-made prison. The habits of cynicism, sarcasm, and anger are fading. But I find myself at a loss. While I am free to love, I am not sure I know how. How do I tell you that I care? How do I show you? I feel like a teenager at my first job – not knowing how to do anything. How awkward! The love I feel is genuine, but I am so inexperienced in the delivery of it. I have started though with the advise of James, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (1:19). As well, with the direction given to the Ephesians, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (4:29). That in itself with be a challenge! But I draw strength from the Lord each time I sit at His feet and am flooded with peace and experience the depth of His love for me. I am no longer withered, but blossoming. I am free to love and be loved!

I have been getting inspiration for this part of my journey from TobyMAC and his song, Speak Life. Have a listen:

Freedom

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…