What does it mean to be free?
A few years ago a friend of mine told me a story about one of her college roommates who decided to get a tattoo. They went to a conservative Christian college in the Midwest, and if I remember correctly, she choose to get the tattoo out of a sort of declaration of autonomy and re-dedication of her commitment to Christ. She choose the word “free”, and wanting it to be discrete, choose to get it inscribed on an area only she would ever see…
Today, her bum literally reads: “FR” | “EE” (hahaha)
Although the placement and additional meaning of her ink has hilarious connotations that were unintended, in retrospect, it has made me ponder – although funny, the location of that tattoo is actually quite fitting. God, through Jesus, saved our butts from living lives apart from Him.
But what does freedom really mean? Why does it matter that our bums, tattooed or not, are free?
The world has it’s own definition of freedom, and our culture is front and center to living and voting that definition into place.
Our culture prides itself on being free. We live in a nation where freedom is defined by our ability to do or say whatever it is that makes us feel happy and independent.
In a real sense, our working definition of freedom has taken on a self-indulgent shade. So long as we are allowed to pursue whatever our hearts desire outside of the confines of anyone else’s needs or well-being, we think we’re free. Our idea of freedom has been reduced to the feeling of happiness, and it is this feeling that dictates whether we believe ourselves to be free or not.
Now obviously there’s a bit of truth in the above; every lie has a string of truth because it is that truth that makes it a really believable lie. True freedom runs much deeper than us getting to live the lives we want, in the way we want, so that we’re happy while we live them. True freedom, when it’s experienced, gets so infused in our souls that it changes the trajectory of our lives!
Only a few months ago, I personally experienced this kind of freedom. The experience came on the heels of a year long commitment to abstain from dating (which I blogged about here
if you’re interested in a laugh.)
Throughout all of last year God brought perspective, growth, healing and resurrection to an area of my life that has experienced much pain and shame. Although I’d done a lot of soul work alongside trusted mentors, pastors and counselors, it was not until this past Feburary that true freedom came and changed me forever.
Six years ago I experienced what I now know to be a spiritual-emotional trauma. I was 24 and dating a guy I was head over heels in love with. Like any new relationship, our first few months felt like floating on clouds. People even joked about us being the Barbie and Ken of our teaching cohort. A few months in, however, I learned that the “Christian organization” for which his entire family were members, was actually a cult.
By the time we broke up, I was a shell of myself. Anyone who was close to me in those days could tell you how horrible that time was… for me and for them.
My up-close-and-personal experience with his family and their cult’s teachings caused me to question everything I believed to be true and “right” and I was put into many situations where manipulation was used to corner me in my confusion.
For the latter half of our relationship, and for a time period afterward, I obsessed over doctrines and theology I didn’t understand. During that time I stopped going to church because I couldn’t stomach sitting in a room full of people who seemingly were not interested in asking big questions about their faith. I suffered panic attacks and developed a ringing in my ears that ultimately warranted me an MRI and therapy. Many nights I would cry myself to sleep feeling desperately frustrated, alone and angry.
Fast forward to a few months ago.
Although EVERYTHING has changed and I’ve received much healing and restoration over the past six years, I started to feel as though the Lord was prompting me to tend to this story of the past. In my heart, I continued to hear the word “trauma” and I started to dream memories I hadn’t thought about in years. I eventually made an appointment with my counselor and told her the entire story as hot tears filled my eyes and poured down my cheeks.
We prayed for freedom that day and when I left her office I felt like a weight had been lifted.
A week later I received a message request on Facebook. It was from my ex’s sister-in-law. We hadn’t spoken for over five years.
Her message was an apology asking for my forgiveness for the ways in which she took part in trying to indoctrinate me into their cult.
Who get’s an apology like that?!
What former cult-recruit receives confirmation that what they were tangled up in WAS evil and damaging and not right?! Me, apparently.
She went on to share that in the past five years, she too has left the cult and is in the process of relearning who she was created to be!
This. This is FREEDOM.
Not only did God set me free from the residual relational and spiritual trauma I’ve been carrying around, he set her FREE too!
God is so good you guys. He is faithful to heal, and reconcile, and guide us. He wants us to be set free from whatever vices we find ourselves battling consciously or subconsciously.
God wants us to lean into the lives for which we were created, lives marked by love, goodness, patience, kindness and self-control. We were meant to live free, unhindered by the yuck of this world. In freedom: peace, faith and reconciliation reign.
Have faith that God has already, through His Son Jesus Christ, set you free!
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1)
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (Jn 8:36)
From what do you need to be set free? What hinders you from living a life marked by mercy, grace and love? What hurt, comment, or action has left scars on your soul? You don’t have to live that way anymore more. You can (and are) set free through your faith in Jesus. Let him heal you. Let him see you free.
What do you need to let go of? Who do you need to call? What steps do you need to make?
You don’t have to hide in your shame, or your loneliness, or your addictions anymore.
Know that it’s possible and know that the process is worth living free.