The message in church this morning was on "Freedom in Christ". The scripture the message was based on was Galatians 5:1-12. For this post, I want to focus on that with which Paul comes out of the blocks:
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
Being the "word nerd" that I am, a few things stand out about this statement.
1. To"free" is a verb - as in: Christ died to set us/me free. Christ freed me.
2. "Freedom" is a noun - as in: Christ bought my freedom.
3. "Freedom" is a state of being - as in: Even though Christ died to set me free, I have not lived in freedom.
I have been a Christian since I was thirteen, but there have been periods in my life that I have not lived in the freedom for which my Savior died. I have lived, instead, bound by the shackles of shame and guilt.
When I was diagnosed with having depression and OCD (an anxiety disorder), I struggled with falling under the category of being "mentally ill". I felt such shame and guilt. I believed that I couldn't cope as well as others because of a flaw in my character or perhaps it was because my faith wasn't strong enough, or I wasn't trusting God enough, or praying enough.
None of which was true, but the shame and guilt that comes with the label of being "mentally ill" can be hard to shake. We NEED to erase the stigma, but that's another post for another day.
When I took my wedding vows...I meant them. I KNEW I would be married until death us do part. I believed that divorce was a sin and that God hated divorce. When my husband and I separated, I did everything in my power to reconcile because I was not going to be one of "those" whose marriage failed.
We reconciled for ten years, but then I had to live with a label that I never thought I'd have to live with. I was divorced. I cannot explain the shame, humiliation, sense of failure and guilt that came with having to say that I was divorced.
To make matters worse, the process affected my work performance (and I needed that job as a single parent), and I was let go. More guilt, more shame, more embarrassment. I was never the one to be let go. I was the one who excelled, and did well at most tasks I tackled. To say this was a low blow would be an understatement!
Guilt and shame come when pride becomes an idol.
Back to church this morning. My husband and I sat beside a delightful couple we did not know. Before the service started, we were carrying on the usual introductory banter. After lobbing some questions back and forth, Diana asked, "Do you have any children?" "Yes, two," I immediately chimed in, "but we're empty-nesters." "Oh really," Diana smiled, "How long have you been empty- nesters?" Without even thinking about my response, I said, "Which time?" We all started to chuckle and gave each other some knowing looks.
As the Pastor went on in his message, I realized I wasn't really so glib about my response. We'd had some rough stretches with my children. We'd watched one go down a very prodigal and destructive path and turn away from the church. Both have had their own share of issues that make potty training look like a walk in the park. It's hard to launch adult children into the world these days.
I realized as the words entered my ears and traveled to my heart, that I was once again living shackled to shame and guilt.
I have asked myself too many times to count, "What did I do wrong that my children have had to struggle so? Where did I mess up? Could I...should I have done something different that would have changed the course they'd traveled?"
The past shackles of shame that God had enabled me to shed had been put back on. No one put them on but me. I have been living in my own self-induced prison cell. Christ died to set me free, but I have been living in guilt and shame. I question the job I did in parenting.
Have you ever been driving down the highway when the person slightly ahead of you stops driving in their lane and starts taking up their half of the middle? And then, the nerve of them, they start encroaching on YOUR lane? I don't curse, but I will yell (as if they can hear me), "What the heck are you doing? Stay in your own lane why don't you!!"
I realize that I haven't been driving in my own lane.
I've been trying to drive in my grown children's lanes.
I've been trying to control, and fix, and give advice, and solve, and somehow make it all easy and better.
I've forgotten, somewhere along the way, that my identity is not based on them and I don't have to feel shame and guilt if their lives are not picture perfect. Their lives are just that....their lives.
My identity is solely based in Christ.
Their identities are solely based in Christ. They were God's children before they were mine. He's got this. He's got them and He loves them even more than I do.
I am not responsible for the trials they've faced and the decisions they've made. (Repeat to self ten times)
God will use their trials to build their testimonies, just like He used my trials to build my testimony.
Was I a perfect mother? No. Was I a good mother? I tried my best, and when I screwed up, I asked God to fill in the gaps that I'd left.
For freedom Christ has set me free...not so I still have to wear the shackles of shame for anything. The price has been paid for sin - intentional and unintentional. Christ's body has been broken and His blood spilled, not so that I would stay shackled to shame, but so that I could live in the freedom for which Christ paid His life.
Will you join me in letting go of whatever guilt or shame you've been holding onto? Will you join me in running, dancing, skipping, rejoicing that we don't have to pay the price with feelings of guilt and shame because the penalty has already been paid? Don't you and don't let the enemy strap on the shackles that have already been broken off.
I carry a little picture of a person walking on the beach. This is the saying that goes with it:
"Christ was perfect for me. I can walk in freedom."
Jesus, for FREEDOM You have set me free. Enable me to stand firm and to walk in that perfect freedom. Break these shackles of shame as they are not from You. Amen.
Are you wearing the shackles of shame? What would Jesus have you do with those? Do you believe that you are forgiven? Given that Christ died for you, how would He want you to live? What shackles of guilt and shame need to go?