Deep down we all crave freedom. In fact, we were created for freedom. We thrive in freedom! But what does freedom look like? Does freedom mean we just get to do whatever we want? What differentiates freedom in Christ to worldly freedom? Let me tell you a little story about myself to help illustrate what this looks like.
For most of my life, I dealt with repressed emotions which resulted in angry outbursts. I would get stressed, overwhelmed, or resentful, and it always translated to anger—usually in front of my family. (For more about my story, read Stop Judging Me!)
I felt completely out of control, like there was nothing I could do to stop my behavior. And I felt such shame because of my sin. On top of that, my husband was (at the time) a professional people-pleaser and peace-keeper. When I became angry and stressed, he would go into peace-keeping mode: Do the dishes! Get the kids out of mom’s hair!
This seems like it would be helpful, but what it actually communicated to me was that I was unacceptable. My behavior is so bad that I need to be fixed or else no one can handle being around me.
This feeling of unacceptance caused massive shame to rise up in me. And shame has one goal: Hide. My shame was telling me that it wasn’t just my sin that was bad, it was me that was bad. (For more on shame, its devastating effects, and how to fight it, read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown).
My usual tactic at this point was to cover over my sin. I really enjoyed blaming: You kids just stress me out! Sometimes I would play it off like it was really no big deal: Eh. Sorry, guys. I don’t know what got into me. Or I could flat-out ignore that anything happened.
None of these methods had been very helpful. I still dealt with shame. I still had feelings of unacceptance. If I wanted to kick shame in the butt and experience acceptance, something would have to change.
When any of us are dealing with sin and seeking freedom, we have two options: Freedom of the world or freedom in Christ.
The essence of freedom of the world is that it identifies me with my sin. In other words, my sin is who I am. I am an angry person. I am a liar. I am an adulterer. I am an addict. And because this is who I am, I demand acceptance for me and my sin!
If I chose this route, I would have fully embraced my anger and told everyone in my path to just deal with it! This is who I am! Take it or leave it!
While I would initially feel liberated, the feelings would eventually wear off. I could successfully throw off the bondage of fear of man only to embrace bondage to sin. At this point, shame would once again begin to bubble over in my heart.
I am still not 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” (Galatians 5:1).
Instead, I chose freedom in Christ. I first owned up to my sin and saw it for the destructive condition that it was. I confessed my sin to God and surrendered to Him, knowing that I was powerless to change myself. I desperately needed His help and guidance.
I then confessed my sin to my trusted friends, who embraced me right where I was. They saw past the anger and saw me for the person God created me to be.
After this, I let my husband know how he could be more helpful. Instead of keeping the peace, I would need a hug. I would need him to come towards me. I would need to know that even when I’m a mess, I’m still accepted and loved. (For more on understanding and communicating our needs, read Seven Desires of Every Heart by Mark and Debra Laaser).
When this happened in my life, when I allowed people to see even the ugly aspects of my life, when I confessed my sin in front of God and others, I was able to grow. God showed me that this sin is not my identity. He even gave me a new identity! He calls me His daughter! And as a daughter of the King, I have access to His resources and His wisdom.
From here, God has taken me on a journey of learning more about who He created me to be. He’s refining me like gold. When things pop up that get in the way, He takes it and says, “This isn’t who you are. Let’s get rid of that.” Very freeing.
Dear sons and daughters of God, you are not defined by your sin. You are His beloved child. Come to Him, knowing that when He looks at you, He sees Jesus and then He refines you and empowers you to live in true freedom.
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