I “came of age” as a Christian in a fairly legalistic church environment. But even without that my own internal compass already points towards rules and regulation; I would’ve landed there without any external influences. Years and years of learning about grace have helped bring me to a place of really and truly believing that my actions cannot change the way God views me — for good or for ill. While my mind understands this for my salvation, my heart has still remained in the realm of un-freedom.
The verse Gal. 5:1 has stuck in my brain since my second year in college. My boyfriend at the time would quote it often and I liked it, but didn’t quite know what to do with it. “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.” Really? Are we sure it isn’t “for rules, guilt, and shame Christ has chosen you?” I felt like being “freed” from the power of sin meant being shackled to an endless cycle of rule-following, rule-breaking, guilt, repentance, wash, rinse, and repeat.
But this past year this verse finally came alive for me. It finally hit how much weight I had put on the circumstances of my life and the people in my life to make me feel safe, loved, or valuable. I have lived my life by committee for a long time. Whatever the majority opinion was about any particular decision was what I chose. And I was often wracked with insecurity and immobilized by disapproval. At 31 I found myself unable to rely on my own judgment and plagued by self-doubt, guilt, and shame for just about everything — including everything from poor choices I’d made as a teenager to my decision to consume too many cookies last night. Summed up — I lived enslaved to fear.
This is not freedom. Living like this is crippling. This is not how Jesus wants us to live. It is for FREEDOM that Christ has set ME free. There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. He will never put his beloved to shame. Slowly, I started to switch my value from people and things and to see my worth in Christ. These verses and so many others washed over me time and again when I felt insecure or beleaguered by guilt.
So in the midst of the worst circumstances I could have ever imagined, I also found myself growing in joy, contentment, and freedom. I wrote these words in my journal this past spring: “I think the key to freedom is manna. You know, the food of the Old Testament delivered directly by the hand of God. We get manna (grace, freedom, hope, joy) for today only. We don’t have to live all our tomorrows and all our yesterdays — we just get right now, just this moment. Despite what I lack on any given day, in spite of fear, today is good. Because my God, my Jesus, He is kind. I am a child for freedom, no longer a slave to fear. He gives manna, strength for today. And promises to hear me tomorrow. To provide. Heal. Restore. Manna for each day.”
I wrote this post several months ago. I haven’t been able to hit publish because it felt unfinished. I think it’s because I’m unfinished. This isn’t a one time thing– finding freedom from shame. I woke up this morning again feeling the weight of guilt. Guilt for not being better than I am, for not being as strong as everyone thinks I am, for not missing my kids more when I’m apart from them, for not being as present as I should with family and friends, for once again being discontent with my current status and wanting to be one hundred steps further down this road than I am.
Guilt is a tricky devil. It sneaks in and robs you of joy at the most unexpected moments. It gets you so wrapped up in your own thoughts that you find yourself questioning and overanalyzing everything. Here I find myself on a gorgeous beach, with my wonderful family, basking in 78 degrees of warmth and yet my mind is a sad mess of mush. So I stop myself again and preach that same old sermon, “Don’t live tomorrow and don’t live yesterday. What are you grateful for today, Soul? Make a list and don’t stop until you find rest in our good and kind Father.” So I did. And I again find peace. Freedom. And hope. Manna for today.