*The Hope is Hard team has had a crazy week with one Hoper moving across the country and one Hoper losing her beloved grandmother, so lucky-for-us we have Courtney sharing her heart with us today! Courtney Allison is a wife, mother, and rogue early morning/late night writer. She lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with her pastor husband and four adorable kiddies. She is passionate about adoption, foster care, and the fight for joy in the everyday.
I, of all people, probably shouldn’t be writing about freedom.
I’ve been living the opposite of “freedom.”
Sixty-five days ago I went in for a routine procedure. And sixty-five days ago, my life radically changed. For the past twelve years I have had an autoimmune condition known as ulcerative colitis. In January of this year, my symptoms began to flare. Perhaps it was the one month old baby I was nursing, maybe it was being a full-time mom to three preschoolers, one with significant special needs. Maybe my body just decided it needed a vacation. Who knows… but on the 21st of April, everything came to a head, and I spent the next 65 days either flat on my back at home or in a hospital.
I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t even walk down stairs. I staggered the ten feet to the bathroom. That was the extent of my freedom. I “lost” my children. Someone else had to care for them. I “lost” my husband. He couldn’t even sit on the foot of my bed or walk across the floor of our room without causing me pain. I lost entertainment, reading, writing, and art. For days I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, focusing on breathing until I could take another pain pill.
Everything was stripped away. Health, ambition, talents, loved ones. Surrounded by prescription bottles, IV drug infusions, adult diapers (yes, really), and hospital gowns… I found freedom.
We tend to build walls, fortresses of competence. We use anything we’re good at, anything life-dominating. Sometimes those walls are brutal and hurtful: addiction, abuse, the past. Sometimes those walls are healthy, strong, and beautiful: family, children, talents, beauty. But they’re still walls. They’re what we hide behind for a sense of adequacy or completeness. And while we glibly nod along to verses like, “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” (2 Cor. 3:5), deep down in our heart, perhaps hidden around a dark corner, is the real source of our competent feelings.
What are you good at? What do you love? Where do you spend your time? What will you do if those things are taken away?
I am a wife.
But I am unable to love my husband.
I am a mother.
I am unable to care for my children.
I am a housekeeper.
I can’t lift a vacuum.
I am a lover of books.
But I can’t follow the words across the page.
I can write.
Thoughts have ceased to be coherent.
I can draw.
I can’t even sit up.
I can… not now. I am… not now.
And that’s the question. When it’s all gone, what’s left?
Without my walls of fake competence… I became free.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
I didn’t feel free. I felt trapped. Trapped in my body. Trapped in my pain. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” I knew that truth. When I was three, I had grasped a glimmer of that truth and clung to it. That was all He needed. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” As I grew, it grew with me. “ For I am sure that… [nothing] else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It became dearer and sweeter each dark valley I walked through. But here I was again… in another valley… and I felt trapped.
It was my sources of competence that entrapped me. Romans 8 talks about how the whole creation is futile, waiting to be set free from this “bondage of decay” and to be “brought into the freedom and the glory of the children of God.” I was resting my hope, my identity, my happiness in good, but temporary things. Look at how quickly my false sense of competence was stripped away: an illness.
That’s all it took.
But there, in the glaring pain, I saw a better hope, and a vivid, perfect freedom.
“That the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
I found the beautiful, promised freedom of eternity. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more…” Everything I have fought for, cried over, or idolized: it will be gone. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore…” All the hurts, the brutal, ugly walls that trap us, they will be gone. And listen to this magical phrase: “for the former things have passed away.”
God could choose to heal me. Or He could choose that I live the rest of my life in pain. God could choose to give you the desires of your heart. Or you could spend your life groping. But this one thing I know… when my heart is set in eternity, this world cannot shake it. When I have grabbed onto the truth of my salvation, grabbed onto it with desperate, clawing, hands… when the waves of pain and loneliness crash in corrosive monotony against my heart… when everything else has slipped away… that is untouchable. Eternity is unmoved. My name is written in blood in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and a flawless, perfect eternity, perfect freedom, awaits.
Friend, your suffering will not go unnoticed, unhealed. Your slavery, your walls, your battles… “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (I Peter 5:10)
We’re living in the “little while.” Freedom is coming.