Freedom

In one of my recent posts, I wrote about being consumed, about opening my hands and my heart to let the Spirit enter in.  This could be part two of that post.  I’ve been meditating and praying a lot on what this means, and I’ve been seriously amazed at what it can mean.  Over the past several years, I have known I’m missing something in my spiritual life.  I was kind of floating along, playing the part, listening to others and wondering what I’m doing wrong.  I would read certain Scriptures and long for the words to come alive in me, although I really had no idea what that meant.  I felt like I should be further along than I was.  I’ve been raised in a Christian home, went to a Christian college, married a guy who is passionate about his faith and has now been called to holy orders.  Shouldn’t I have “gotten it” by now?  Shouldn’t I be one that others look to as an example, instead of blindly stumbling my way through each day, hoping no one sees the real me?

A handful of experiences lead me to realize that I had built some pretty thick walls around my heart and soul.  And I had an army protecting those walls.  I was desperate to dictate who and what was allowed in, all the time wondering why I felt so restrained and uneasy.  I determined to do something about it.  I was going to figure out how to make things better.  I prayed about it…every now and then.  I bought books, read blogs, faced hard days with a fierce resolve to get it right.  And I failed.  Over and over.  Nothing worked.  I was so frustrated.

Fast forward to last year.  The Lord started to work on me.  At first it was in ways I didn’t even notice.  But then there were a few key events that were refreshing slaps in the face.  I slowly started to understand that I needed to let Jesus tear my walls down and be my strength.  I remember one evening our Bishop was praying over me, and he told me that he sensed that for my whole life I had been walking alongside a rushing river, and now it was time to jump in.  Yes!  That’s what I want, what I need.

Not long after this experience, on my way home from a women’s retreat (which was one of those key events), as I drove I had an image of chunks of me falling away, and I was frantically grabbing the pieces and holding them tightly to me, literally trying to hold myself together.  It was a vivid picture of the rigid pattern I had developed in my life, working so hard to look like I’ve got it right, to move through each day in complete control.  I tearfully recognized the need to let Jesus pick up those pieces and hold them for me.  To let the Holy Spirit guide me, to relinquish the control I clung to.

But with this realization came intense fear.  Doubt.  What will happen if I let go?  What will I be asked to do?  To give up?  What if I don’t have what it takes?  What if I fail?  Can I really trust that He will provide?  Too many questions.  Too many unknowns.

Then, at a retreat for the clergy and spouses of our diocese, I was so blessed by a word the Lord spoke to me.  During a time of prayer, our Bishop prayed that he knew there were some people present who needed to open their hearts.  Of course, I identified with that right away.  This had been on my mind for several months, but I was still coming to terms with it.  So I began to open my heart right there.  I started telling God that I knew He was speaking to me, but that fear had been holding me back, and I didn’t know what to do with that.  He spoke clearly and powerfully to me through the prayers of others, through my own prayers, and through His Word.  He reminded me that He will show me the way, He will provide more than I could ever ask or imagine, that I need not fear, only believe.

So, I’ve jumped in the river, and the freedom I’m experiencing is incredible.  The other day I came across one of the books I purchased in my earnest attempt to fix myself.  It was about the fruit of the Spirit.  As I put it away, I joyfully thanked God for this journey I’ve been on; for the place I am now; for the opportunity to be in communion with Him, Father, Son, Spirit; for the fruits He produces in us when we allow Him to enter in.  For the freedom from feeling like I have to figure it all out and make the fruits take root in my life.

Now I’m not saying it’s all sunshine and roses.  As Fr. Eirik so eloquently reminded us in his recent sermon, just like Thomas, we often don’t trust easily.  We need to come just as we are, humbly, honestly, admitting our faithlessness.  And while He will give us marvelous signs to show us that He is enough, the true blessing comes when we believe.  When we are in communion with Him, with our defenses down, just being in His presence will allow Him to renew us into the fullness of life, in the hope and reality of His resurrection.  Because He has overcome, all of our shortcomings, our fears, our doubts.  And His wounds are the way to the Father.  The way to abundant life, a life of victorious freedom in the Holy Spirit.

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