This past week, my yearly MOPS package arrived in the mail.
I love this thing. Every year, MOPS International sends out a package to each of their registered moms full of fun goodies like postcards, stickers, and a devotional/planner based on their theme. As well, this year included a bracelet.
This sweet bracelet, while not only aesthetically enticing, also came with a hidden meaning for us. Spelled in morse code letters with the bead variations was the word “freedom”. And on the attached tag was a reminder that while we often think of freedom as a right, in all reality, it is a choice.
To be totally honest, I had never thought of freedom as a choice for most of my life. When I would think of freedom, the first thought that would come to mind was the pictures of older gentlemen with curly white wigs and stiff military collars, our founding fathers. Then I would think of the words “freedom isn’t free” and holidays like Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. And then of course, there’s the knowledge that I am free in Christ, because of His death and resurrection. True freedom.
On the subject of freedom in Christ and our faith, I know that I have often viewed it as a very passive thing, something that just happens to me. I accepted Christ (an active choice) and chose to live for him (also an active choice) but from there, I was covered by His blood and freedom should just rest on me. But as I have walked through some hard things in the past few years, things that have felt like the heaviest of chains, I began to realize that while I was “free” in Christ, I had to choose to live within that freedom and take it by the hand.
For the last several years, I’ve had struggles with anxiety. Not just worry, not just stress, but crippling, incapacitating anxiety. The brutal feeling that your mind and body have been overtaken by thoughts and feelings that you have no control over. And with that came shame, despair, and longing for normalcy. There were good seasons and bad seasons. And when I came to know Jesus, I thought that I would walk forward in freedom with Him and leave anxiety behind. But that was not His plan for me. When things got harder instead of easier, I chalked it up to not being a good enough Christian, and sought to pour myself into my bible, serving others, and prayer. I truly believed that if I did enough, God would choose to heal me. If I proved myself worthy, He would rescue me. But, of course, it was never enough, because that was never the point. I will never be able to do enough, because I am already enough, covered by the blood of Christ.
I’ve heard so many stories of women who have walked through anxiety and have found complete healing at the hand of God. And while that used to frustrate and hurt me, I am now able to be thankful and praise God for what He has done in these women. Because I’m learning that these things are true: our story doesn’t start the minute we get things figured out. We don’t have to be healed to share God’s goodness. And I absolutely can be used effectively by God right in the middle of my storm.
Within that frame of mind, I began to see how my freedom in Christ involved me taking an active stance. I spent many months sitting back in my circumstances and allowing them to overpower me, waiting on God to “free” me. Raising my hands, begging Him to rescue me, pleading with Him to heal me. When it didn’t happen, I thought He was choosing not to hear me. Much like the disciples on the boat in chapter four of the Gospel of Mark, I was shaking Jesus awake and screaming, “How can you be sleeping?! Do you not see that I am dying??”
Oh, I have so little faith.
It took a few conversations with different people to help me see that I wasn’t being left ineffective. And that if I chose to live within the freedom that I was already given, this struggle of mine could turn out to be one of my greatest gifts.
Now please hear me, I don’t have this all figured out. In all honesty, I struggle daily with putting freedom on over what still feels like chains. On the good days, I feel it fit comfortably against my skin and walk tall within it but on the hard days, it feels like stretching spandex over chainmail. But if I truly believe that God’s goodness continues on despite my circumstances, and that He will use all things for my good and His glory, then what choice do I have but to walk forward in faith and freedom?
I don’t know where you are, and I don’t know what your story is, but I do know this: God has made us free. And each day, if we choose to, that freedom can be our adorning. We can choose to rejoice even when things are hard. We can choose to serve even when we are falling apart. We can choose to love even when our hearts are breaking. We are free from the weight that these circumstances can have, dragging us down into hopelessness. We can have hope, we can have joy, we can have peace.
I am choosing freedom today, are you?