Freedom is a word that has been a part of my vocabulary for as long as I can remember. Freedom is a concept I always understood with my head, but not my heart. Let me explain.
The forth of July has always been my favorite holiday, aside from Christmas (duh!), because we celebrate the freedom we have as a country both from the past and present. I always loved the fireworks, and genuinely appreciated all of the rights and privileges I have from our history as a country and for all of the sacrifices our soldiers have made.
And for all of the freedom I have felt over the years as it relates to my patriotism and pride as an American, I was still a slave to my own pain, shame, and condemnation that I carried around in my heart. The secrets of my childhood that weighed heavily in my mind could not be forgotten no matter how much I tried to bury them. I had hurt people I cared about. People I cared about hurt me.
Growing up in church, especially as the child of a minister, I felt compelled to be perfect. My parents were wonderful and never put that pressure on me, but it was a role I assumed because of my own perception of how a pastor's family should look.
Although I strived to be perfect out of my own strength, I failed so many times. I did things I regret, and I hurt people I loved. There were also things that happened to me that hurt me deeply.
When you're a child and bad things happen wether it be you that was wronged or you that inflicted the pain you don't always know how to navigate your feelings. Sometimes you don't understand how to handle it so your only defense is to bury it and try to move on. The problem with this is you never truly forget, and the wound affects many if not all areas of your life when you become an adult who begins to understand the complexities of life.
For me, when I realized I had never dealt with my painful past, I felt like a slave because I felt powerless to move forward. I couldn't escape my past, but I also didn't know how to be free. And what's more is Satan used my past against me and attacked my identity in Christ by feeding me lies about myself and by isolating me.
This is where Jesus came in. Understanding the truth of who Jesus is and what he said about me helped me find freedom. Where was he when I was being hurt? He was there. And you know what? He felt my pain. Where was he when I hurt someone else? He was there. And he wears my shame. When he went to the cross, he took all of that with him so that I could be free from my pain, guilt, and shame. He had always been with me, and despite my failures, he loved me unconditionally. Despite being broken, he had a beautiful plan for my life. I found his Word full of promises and truth that negated everything I thought about myself. My self-loathing slowly dissipated, and I was able to love myself, love God, and in turn love others.
The healing process of my past has not been easy, nor has it been completed. Most of my healing has come from forgiving myself for hurting others and for forgiving others. If I don't forgive, how can I expect to be forgiven? And if I can't forgive myself then it's like I'm saying that what Jesus did for me wasn't enough. It is enough, though, and now I'm free.
Freedom. It's a concept I've always known in my head, but not my heart...until now. The freedom I have in Christ is an eternal freedom that crosses borders and culture. It's for everyone. While we are so blessed to have freedom in our country and I wish it for everyone on this earth, eternal freedom in Christ is what this world needs the most.
I know I'm not alone in the ways I've been hurt and have wronged others. For so long I felt isolated and ashamed to even speak about my experiences, but the chains began to loosen as I opened my mouth and shared my story with those closest to me and with those that I trust.
If you are struggling to find freedom from any shame or condemnation you feel from anything you have done or that has been done to you, I would encourage you to find people you trust that you can talk to, and remember these verses and the promises God has over your life. God is gracious, and we find healing as we confess. It's so hard, but it's so worth it. I pray you find freedom today.