Thursday, August 13, 2009

live freely. love freely.

laughing with friends ~ august 15, 2009

"My counsel is this:

Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit."

Galatians 5:16 (MSG)


there is no part of me left that has been left unchanged by God's grace. much like a father does with His a young daughter, in one sweeping motion, He scooped me up into His arms and for the first time in my life, i didn't resist His embrace. for the first time in my life, i didn't struggle to break free. and for the first time in my life, i did not feel the familiar urgency to run away and reject His love any longer. i do not know why. i do not know how. all i know is that i have not been the same since.

my personality is such that people when i encounter people i haven't seen in five years - or in twenty - they always comment that i am "exactly the same" as they remember. this can be construed as either a compliment on my cheerful demeanor or as an insult on my level of maturity, either way - both probably hold some truth. the latter evidenced by my late night chats with my best friend, steffi, usually via facebook or gtalk. they are filled with hysterical laughter, phonetically spelled words and acronyms that only we can decipher. if anyone had transcripts of those chats, they'd be shocked to discover that we are thirtysomething women - and not thirteen year old girls.

at first impression, their assumption is right: i still talk too much, laugh too loud, and i'm likely to call you out by name, even if you're the kid who was bagging the groceries i was ringing up when i worked at a grocery store in high school. yet now, when i encounter people, new acquaintances and old friends alike, there is a new burden in me to share Christ and yet, a new ignorance as to how. i am a new creation and yet, still me.

i went to 'art on the rocks' at the birmingham museum of art the last night. it was the last one of the summer and although i hadn't planned to go, an opportunity - and an extra ticket - came up at the last minute. so my girlfriend and i got dolled up in lip gloss, new dresses and heels and set out for the city. i was a little apprehensive about it. for one, i doubted my ability to maintain both my posture and footing in 3 inch strappy hills [and i did struggle with both]; and secondly, i had not been "out" in the midst of that caliber of a social event setting since God radically changed every facet of my life, internally and externally.

in the past, you know my past - the one tattered with inconsistency many futile attempts at self-righteous religion - i would've scoffed at secular socializing while compiling my own little list of do's and don'ts and then strictly enforced myself to stick to each of them with fervor, all while proclaiming (read: preaching) to others to do the same. small wonder why that never worked out for me ... or anyone else, right?

freedom in Christ. i'd read about it all my life, but never experienced it until recently. paul's letter to the galatians explains it perfectly. i love paul. as in, the apostle paul, former persecutor and murderer of Christ-followers totally redeemed by the grace of God. living, breathing, radical proof of the unfathomable love and grace of God; the same unfathomable grace available to you and to me. apparently, the people of galatia weren't completely unlike me: they had tried and failed to stick to rules and regulations in order to gain both the approval of God and others. as i read it earlier, it was if he had written it to me:

"dear [nadia], when you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. for in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. what matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love...

my counsel [to you, nadia] is this: live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. for there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. these two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?" [your friend, Paul] Galatians 5:13-17 (msg)

live freely. love freely. motivated by God's spirit. and choosing to be led by the Spirit. walking into such a crowd last night, i found that living freely, loving freely and being constantly motivated by God's spirit in this new heart of mine came naturally. almost effortlessly. oh, i had lots of superficial, social chattering. i still talk too much, laugh too loud and incite my guy and girl friends alike to spew beverages from their nostrils in laughter. but, as i found out last night, when my glossy, giggly surface is scratched, it is His spirit and no longer my own that comes pouring out.

Luke 6:46 says, "for out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks." my heart, you know, this new one that He has given me, it is overflowing with His story of redemption and consequently, it is what pours from my mouth. my faith is expressed through love, His love in me and through me and extends through me as i love my friends with the same abandon He has loved me with.
at the end of the night i realized, in hindsight, how needless my apprehension had been. for He is not simply with me, but in me. and finally: freedom in Christ. i am free to live for Him. free to share His love through my faith. if i could, i would like to write a letter back to paul, and it would be three words long: i. am. free.

Through you the blind will see
Through you the mute will sing
Through you the dead will rise
Through you our hearts will praise
Through you the darkness flees
Through you my heart screams, "I am free!"
I am free!

~ newsboys lyrics

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