Freedom.

 

“If the Son sets you free, then you will be free indeed.” 

Once for a college dance performance, I had the chance to perform a jazz routine based on this Scripture. It was a cool experience because dancing is one of my favorite ways to worship God and an amazing form of expression. I don’t think anything quite captures the concept of complete joy and freedom like dance.

I read this verse in church many times, but I never took into consideration everything that it means for us. It’s actually a big deal when you sit down (or stand up and dance) to think about it.

Often, I don’t fully comprehend how vast this freedom is that I have in Christ.

It’s not only freedom from the things that hold me back from Him, such as selfishness, anger, confusion and shame, just to name a few.  It’s even more than freedom to think, live and make my own choices and freedom from what others say or do to me.

It’s also freedom from myself, which I think can be a tough concept to grasp.

I read a book where the author compared God to an inventor and us to His inventions. In the book, the author was saying that without some guidance, the inventions don’t know how to work themselves and other people don’t know how to do it either. The only way to know how something works is to ask the inventor, who knows every single thing about the inventions, since he/she designed and created them.

The truth is, I just don’t know what’s good for me. All that I know about myself, I know because of God. After all, He’s the One who created me – I didn’t create me. With that in mind, it makes sense that I know nothing about myself apart from Him. Its only natural that I would look to Him to tell me all about myself, what I’m capable of, how I work and what’s ultimately best for me. Since he designed me, He knows all of those intricate details. In fact, there isn’t a single thing about me that He doesn’t know, because He invented it all.

This gives me the freedom to let go of my own ideas about myself, my constant need to control who I am, the situations I’m in and the choices I make, which may seem like the best thing at the time because it’s what I want, but aren’t necessarily good for me because it’s not what I need. God knows all of that. And He gives us this incredible freedom to just live and accept the fact that we can’t do it on our own, and we don’t have to nor are we expected to. He knows who we’re meant to become and the situations and choices that will get us there, if we just let go, trust God and allow Him to show us.

I think this verse and the freedom Christ gives us are often attributed to the freedom we have to live our lives joyfully and openly.  And that’s definitely part of it.  But I think that’s honestly making this idea way too small. Sometimes, I catch myself trying to see this concept of freedom through a human-sized lens, rather than a God-sized one.

I think the idea of God’s love setting us free is a lot more vast than we could imagine. Because of Him and all He sacrificed, we live in freedom from expectations.  Freedom from doubt.  Worry. Anticipation.  Disappointment. Resentment.  Fear. Freedom from our plans and the way we try to live our lives.  Freedom from imperfection.

This isn’t saying that none of these things will come into our lives, it’s simply saying that they don’t need to control or define us.

This is huge. Because it means not only do we have the freedom to live joyfully and openly and make our own choices, but to live free from the stress that sometimes results because of those choices. We can rest knowing God is our inventor, and He knows how to use us in each situation for our own good and the good of those around us, if we just let Him.

I don’t think this means that we should make choices without even considering how God wants us to live. Just because we can trust Him to have our back, doesn’t mean it should lead us to take advantage of Him. But instead, the unfailing trust we can place in Him should motivate us to focus all of our energy on God in trying to make the right choices. If our hearts are in the right place, even if we mess up, we should never have to worry about a thing.

Grace = Freedom.

My devotional today was centered on the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew, describing the story of Jesus’ birth. Reading about His life here on earth, and His death and resurrection, brought to life this incredible freedom in a whole new way.

The fact that our Savior would sacrifice so much to give us a lifetime of freedom that I take for granted is astounding to me. I do it all the time and because of that, I miss so much of who God really is.

The truth is that the Grace He gives to us isn’t anything like we have ever known or will know.

It’s ultimate freedom from everything, and love abounding in everything.

It’s infinite.

Unendingly wide and high and deep and long.

Instead of trying to understand it, just rest in it.

It’s there for us to have – unceasing, unchanging, forever.

#RealTalk


 
 

Brokenness is what I long for?

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We sang this song in church about a month ago.

 

I had never heard it before, and aside from being a great song, it immediately raised a thousand questions for me. I went home and listened to it again after church, trying to understand my confusion.

The song is the same verse and chorus sung three times in a row. Each time, a word changes.

In the beginning, it says:

“Holiness is what I long for, Holiness is what I need, Holiness is what You want from me.”

The second verse replaces the word “holiness” with “faithfulness.”

In the last verse, the word is “brokenness.” As I was worshipping alongside everyone in church, I found myself singing:

“Brokenness is what I long for. Brokenness is what I need.  Brokenness is what You want from me.”

At this point, I had stopped singing and began to think, “Wait a minute. Is this song saying that God wants brokenness from me? Are you sure?”

I started looking around to see if anyone else shared in my confusion.

“Other people have to be asking themselves the same question,” I thought.

The thing is, I’ve always thought of brokenness as a bad thing. Nobody wants to be broken. Especially in this age of progress, we want to be put together. We want to be strong. Nobody wants something that is broken either. Why would we want something that’s broken?  Why would God, in all of His infinite beauty and perfection, want something that’s broken?

Not only does the song say God wants brokenness from us, but it says brokenness is what I long for. Everything in my human nature is telling me that’s false.

If it’s broken, then it’s worthless, useless and of no value…right?

So if I’m broken, then…aren’t I worthless? Useless? Of absolutely no value?

The song goes even further to say brokenness is what I need. It’s telling me not only does God want it from me, and not only do I long for it, but I need it.

The simple question I kept asking myself as I was listening to the song is: Why?

Here is what the dictionary lists as some definitions for broken:

violently separated into parts. shattered. damaged.  altered. interrupted. full of obstacles. violated by transgression. irregular. tainted. streaked. made weak. crushed. sorrowful. reduced. disconnected. cut off. deserted.

As I read through this list, I made an important discovery: Didn’t Jesus experience all of these things? Didn’t everything that defines the word broken happen to Jesus on the Cross?

He was violated by our transgressions. He was reduced to dying a criminal’s death. He was sorrowful, made weak, deserted and crushed. Violently.

But nowhere in the definition of brokenness does it say meaningless, worthless or invaluable.

Jesus experienced brokenness, that’s for sure. He knows how it feels to be broken into pieces, which is exactly why He relates so well to our brokenness. But He was certainly not worthless. What happened to Him was not meaningless. In fact, Jesus becoming broken for us was the most meaningful thing that has ever happened to us and our world. Jesus, being the perfect representation of God’s passionate, faithful, unconditional love for us, is the most valuable thing our hearts have ever experienced.

After realizing that,  I came to this conclusion:

 

It’s open, it’s vulnerable, it’s real and it’s raw.

This is exactly the way God begs for us to come to Him so He can reach into those transparent, broken hearts of ours and love us. Once God places His extravagant love within us, our hearts are molded so our desires match up with His. Because of this, brokenness is not only something we absolutely need, but it becomes something we desperately long for.

I think the problem I had with the concept of brokenness as I was reflecting on the song, and the reason most of us struggle with the idea of becoming broken for the glory of God, is because of insecurities.

In my experience, I’ve noticed insecurity and fear seem to be inherent in human nature.  We think our brokenness means there is no way God could possibly use us to do anything of value. This insecurity is one that keeps us from becoming all we are meant to be in Christ, because it holds us back from trusting God is capable of more than all we could ask or imagine.

It was never about us to begin with. 

Broken or not, God is the One who gives us our strength. And in Him, there is no brokenness at all.

To rid ourselves of our fear, we need to realize that it is not in spite of our brokenness, but because of our brokenness that God uses us.

Admitting we are broken opens us up to understanding our desperate need for God. This leads us toward an unshakeable trust that God can take even the most broken of people and use them to change the world.

After all, take a look at what He did with Jesus: the most broken Man I know.

#RealTalk

Dear Beloved,

One of our activities in youth group back in high school was to write a letter to ourselves from God.

We were supposed to think about what God would say to us at that moment in our lives and write as if He were sending us a letter. It was surprisingly more difficult than I could imagine, especially at a point in my life when I had so much going on. I was getting ready to leave for college, trying to plan ahead for my future, attempting to muster what little motivation I had left to finish studying for my final exams and preparing to leave home for the first time – all while feeling the looming weight of this ever-approaching “real world” people were constantly talking about. I still had no clue what I was in for.

The unknown can be a scary place sometimes, but I’ve found it is many times the best place.

Even now that I’m in the “real world,” I wake up most days feeling like there is a lot of unknown still to discover. I have to admit I would find this task of writing a letter from God to myself just as difficult now.  I’m totally incapable of thinking of myself the way God does without making a conscious effort, and I’m reminded of that every day.

I remember putting it off for several days, and then one day as I was reading a devotional, everything that needed to be said (or written) suddenly flooded into my mind. I couldn’t write fast enough.

After I was finished, I could barely remember what I had actually written. I was so caught up in it that I wasn’t even thinking about it anymore. Two hours had passed in what felt like five minutes.

I vividly remember reading the letter back after I finished writing it and tears filling my eyes, because it was exactly what I needed to hear. I truly believe with every facet of my being those words were not my own, but they came from God to me at a moment in my life when I needed them most.

Occasionally, when I need to be reminded of who I am and how God thinks of me, I reread the letter.

I don’t know where you are on your journey with God, but I pray that maybe these words give you the same hope, joy and peace they did for me in a season of waiting for so much uncertainty to unfold – a season of life that I don’t think ever really ends.

Here is what God had to say to me then, and continues to remind me every day that I forget:

Weary and broken down from the weight of life, from attempting to please so many and managing to please so few, from hiding behind who I pretend to be, from pretending to have it all figured out – to have it all together – but so frequently feeling the familiar sting of failure, defeat, disappointment. Frustrated and angry and upset with myself. Feeling worthless.  Feeling invisible.

Broken, empty and helpless, I fall to my knees. Surrendering my pride, I finally give in.  There’s nowhere left for me to go. I’m tired of hiding behind lies. I just want truth –  something to cling to.
Doubting myself, feeling let down and terrified to know the answer, I cautiously ask:
“God, what do You think of me?”
Filled with compassion, His eyes fill with tears.
“I can’t believe that you’re asking Me this. It breaks My heart to think that you don’t know beyond a shadow of a doubt what I think of you.
My beautiful child, you know what I think of you.
You are My precious daughter.
You are unique; there is no one else in the world like you. You are priceless; worth more to Me than anything on this earth.
Look at the mountains that stretch miles and miles into the sky, majestically dressed with crystal snow.
I love you more than those mountains.
Look out over the desert that engulfs you in its vastness, leaving you feeling so small. I love you more than each grain of sand.
Stare in awe at the power and strength of the ocean as the tide rushes in, surrounding you with its beauty. I designed each wave. I gave the ocean its force. But I treasure you so much more.
Look at the waterfalls, the valleys, the fields. Watch the wild horses run; the bald eagles soar. Examine the intricate design of each flower, each snowflake, each butterfly’s wings.
Stand immersed in a breathtaking sunset.
 Observe how I have sculpted the world and painted the skies, and know that you are more beautiful.
I delight in you, and I love you with all that I am. If that weren’t true, I wouldn’t have sent My Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for you so I could know you. I wouldn’t have relentlessly pursued you. I would have let you die in your sin. But I couldn’t. I will never be willing to let go of you, because I desire and cherish you and want you alive. Alive in Me.
You want to know how much I love you?  I don’t need you, but I still desperately want you.  That’s how much I love you.
So don’t ask silly questions that in your heart you know the answer to. Instead, believe in your heart that the answer is, in fact, the absolute truth.
Next time you find yourself asking the question: What does God think of me? Know that no matter what this world has to offer, He loves you more.
#RealTalk