(2 Cor. 3:17) #nomoreshackles
That was the text message I received nearly a week ago from a good friend of mine that I honestly do an awful job at keeping in touch with since I transferred colleges three years ago. "Well, that's nice," I thought to myself, "but hardly applicable right now..." See, I've been struggling to strengthen my relationship with God since recently, quite frankly, I've been doing as terrible at communicating with Him as with the same friend that sent me this text message. That one thing I swore I'd never let settle into my heart happened: indifference. Indifference because as I struggled with the various difficult internal things that started popping up in my life more and more, I started relying less on God and more on my own strength to try to get me through. My train of thought was something along the following lines:
"I'm just too far gone at this point. I need to get myself right first before I can come back to God...if He decides to even let me back in, anyways." (Sitting here now in a somewhat-better state of mind, I can tell you straight-up that this line of thinking is exactly what God does NOT advocate. See Isaiah 1:18, Joel 2:32, and John 8:2-11, for example, and you'll begin to see that the Gospel is NOT a gospel of works but rather a gospel of grace).
Fast forward a couple of days. I'm sitting in church with my dad listening to a sermon that Dr. Henry Cloud was giving...a sermon that was really was just his personal story, his personal testimony, a tribute to the saving power of Jesus when it comes to pulling people up out of the deepest pits. And I'm sitting there listening to the story of his screwed-up childhood and adolescence and early adulthood, and I begin thinking to myself... "You know, surely Jesus is trying to reach me, too, if He was trying to get through to someone like Cloud." And then came the closing remarks from our campus pastor regarding the "life loop" that he drew on the large teaching pad: "If you're in this downward-sloping, crisis part of the loop, you need to know you're not alone. Share crisis in community." And so on with the other parts of the loop.
Fast forward to that evening. Scene: Young adults ministry evening bible study, blankets and ice cream, Would Your Rather icebreakers that inevitably led to raucous peals of laughter that filled the warm, sunset-lit air. Contrasting the light and silly games was a heavy study of Romans 9 that ended with a time of prayer requests, some of which were even heavier. And I was surprised at the vulnerability with which the others were sharing their hearts, and finally just before everyone was about to pray I decided to take a leap and share my need for a softened heart, to come back into a closer relationship with God, to seek Him before all else even as I graduate and am sent abroad. A girl I had been wanting to know prays for me and I feel a deep still calm move over my heart. And I am reminded while trying to fall asleep that we were talking earlier during the study about the Wednesday service by Shauna Niequist about changing the story, and how I was trying to stream it a couple of days prior and it wasn't working, and I decide I need to watch it.
So I do it the next day, obviously, and the questions stuck: What stories am I telling about myself, the world, and God that I picked up on my own from one source or another and not from God? What stories do I need to leave behind so that God has room to put new stories into my life? And what words, if I believed them, would radically change how I perceive myself and everything else, would radically change my life and my story?
Fast forward to nighttime. I'm lying wide-awake in my bed trying to sleep and not succeeding as I sift through a million thoughts: Who needs to hear these words...what do I need to hear...what do I need to let go of...but can I ever let go of this story, when this story is going to pursue me for the rest of my life? Aren't I an exception? Maybe not, things are better than they have been, things feel easier...And I think about the animal that is chained to a wall who, each time people approach it to try to help it, ends up being backed into the wall and then attacks the person who draws near out of fear and self-defense, because when flight isn't an option you have to fight...and then I think about Jesus who frees us of our chains, frees us and allows us choices and changes our stories. Jesus, the Chainbreaker.
No more shackles.