My brain was running like a hamster hyped up on caffeine, my stomach knotting up tight as I wrestled over this decision I had to make. If I said yes, it was going to require my time and quite a chunk of change. And if I said no I might miss out on an opportunity to grow and network.
A friend of mine had invited me to attend a writing conference. She’d gone last year and had taken time to fill me in on what she had learned, but this year she invited me to share the experience.
On the surface it sounded like a great idea. I’ve been asking God for a writing conference for a couple of years now, but nothing has worked out. I’ve always had something else scheduled or didn’t learn about that particular one until a week before, when there was no possible way I could get there. However, as I dug into the details of this conference I felt myself backing away a little. With that kind of price tag, I wasn’t sure I could swing it.
So, I did what I always do when I have to make a decision: I talked it through. I reasoned why I shouldn’t go and couldn’t go and really wasn’t interested. Until someone told me I should go. Even if I just went for the fellowship or the experience of getting one writing conference under my belt, it would be worth it.
With another voice speaking into the decision, my wheels were spinning again. Back and forth like a little girl pulling petals off a flower. “I should go, I should not go, I should go…”
Finally, I got so tired of my brain, I told the Lord out loud, “God, I just want to be responsible!”
And His response has been seared into my very soul:
“That’s good. But I want you to be free.”
I felt my spirit inhale, my breath caught in my throat as I sat there blinking, taken back by His words.
For so many years I’ve been the “responsible” one. My grandma likes to claim that I came out of the womb responsible. I’m the peacemaker who likes to keep everyone united, not step on any toes, and doesn’t procrastinate (most of the time). I’m on time to meetings and mark my calendar so I don’t forget events. I keep extensive to-do lists and try to keep close tabs on my finances so I don’t overspend or miss a payment.
On the surface, those probably aren’t bad qualities to have.
But what gets me into trouble is that by doing all these things and trying to have it all together, I’ve believed the lie that I can make everything work; I can make myself good.
In my relationship with God, it makes me feel like I’m somehow earning His approval.
When I was in college I spent six horrible months fighting God, ignoring His prompting to join a missions team to Papua New Guinea that summer. It is very easily the worst heart-season of my life because I did my best to shut Him out.
After that season, when I finally surrendered and went on that trip, I was determined never to ignore God again. And somewhere along the way I became hypersensitive to God’s will. I tested everything, even small stupid things that absolutely do not matter in the scheme of eternity, throwing myself into a spin cycle of anxiety because I was so afraid of messing up, of missing an opportunity, and therefore missing God’s will.
It was at that time that He gave me the image of myself up on a tightrope, high above a net, with a crowd looking on. “My will is not a tightrope act,” He said. “One bad move won’t plummet out of my will.”
Suddenly the image changed and I saw myself and Jesus out in the woods. “My will is a wooded path wide enough for the both of us to walk hand in hand.”
Sometimes we can get so caught up in what we’re “supposed” to do, that we forget that what God really wants for us is freedom. He doesn’t want us tied up in anxiety and walking on eggshells, afraid of making a bad step. He is not like a driving instructor, making marks on his clipboard every time we forget to use our blinker or when we don’t stop all the way at the stop sign.
Jesus came to give life and life abundantly, but the way I’ve been living has been far from freedom, far from abundance.
So, Jesus and I are on a journey of moving from a fugitive to living freely in His grace and love. What does it mean to be free? To live free? What does it mean that it is for freedom that I have been set free?
The journey to freedom is different for all of us, the chains that need broken have a different name in each of our lives. But what I am encouraging you to do today is to take a look at your heart with the Lord. Ask Him if there is any area where you’re not living freely and abundantly, and ask Him what you should do about it.
Ask Him to unlock the chains and show you how to walk away from the harmful habits and thought processes, expectations and addictions.
It is for freedom that you have been set free.
Live in that freedom.
Live in His love!