- Thursday, July 01, 2004
As a kid I was afraid to go to school. Afraid for my mom to leave me. Afraid she wouldn’t pick me up. Afraid that I wouldn’t know what to do or that I would have no one to sit with. I tried hard to cover up these fears, but I quickly discovered that I was not Broadway bound for my acting abilities. My hands trembled in kindergarten; tears from being left would uncontrollably slip out until I could pull myself together and tuck them in again. And that was before having to ride the bus to elementary school. Getting on that thing for the first time felt like a death wish. What kind of guarantee did I have that this perfect stranger would actually take me to school and back home again? For all I knew, she might drive me to the hills of West Virginia and push me out onto the side of the road, separating me from my family forever. I thought long and hard about these threatening possibilities.
Of course, as I’ve matured and grown in confidence over the years, I’m a little less phobic. But the fears haven’t gone away. I wear them with a little more class, and they’re slightly more masked, but if it were fully acceptable — and I knew in advance that no one would judge me — I would cry out in the most obnoxious, whimpering, childish voice, “Don’t make me go! Don’t make me go! Pleeeeeeease don’t make me go!”
I haven’t resorted to this yet, but it’s everything I’m thinking and feeling. I hold back the “I’m-falling-apart” drama, not so much because I’m afraid of what people might think, but because I know I have to go. Not just because I have to make a living and this is the only way I know how to do it, and not just because I have to hold up my end of the bargain with my record company and booking agency; but because I know that this is what God has put in my heart to do. I’m confident of this, and even though I’m afraid at times, I can’t curl up like a pill bug because I don’t want to leave home.
But choosing the high road doesn’t keep all my anxiety at bay. It just means that I lay down my own agenda and fears for the sake of doing what I believe God is asking of me. I have stretched in these areas a great deal, but I’m not sure that it will ever be easy for me to step on a bus or board a plane at the expense of being away from so much I hold dear. But this is where the fight for freedom comes in. In obedience and trust there is liberty. It doesn’t mean that everything is suddenly better for me, but that my fears don’t dictate my decisions. It’s not that I don’t fear, it’s just that my fears aren’t the controlling factor.
Freedom in Christ is similar, at least in my experience. Again, I think we as a Christian community do ourselves (and others) a great disservice when we promote the idea that freedom from our struggles is an instantaneous event, a one-time moment of deliverance. Paul’s statement in Galatians 5:1 — “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” — refers to the instantaneous part: Jesus Christ hung on a cross to bear the sins of the world in order to secure our eternal freedom. But the second part of Paul’s statement cautions us that day-to-day freedom in our mortal bodies is something we must vigorously protect. We must hold our ground so we do not slip back under the heavy burdens that hold us captive.
Maintaining our soul-freedom is up to us. Based on my own experience as well as the experiences of those who are farther down the road than I am, it’s a lifelong battle. It is supposed to be hard. Acknowledging that challenge relieves me because it is far more stressful to think that being a Christian guarantees automatic victory or immediate deliverance from something that we will never have to work at again — especially considering the fact that I have never been able to accomplish this struggle-free way of life. Yet this incorrect way of thinking continues to be propagated and has led to the destruction of many Christians who are sincere followers of Christ but have had to work desperately hard for their freedom.
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