I have had such an amazing journey with God the last two years of my life. The paths in which I have traveled have taken me through spiritual landscapes that are as varying as those as the physical around us: I have stood on mountains, crawled through valleys, wandered in the wilderness, sat parched of thirst in the desert, stood beside still waters, clung on for dear life in raging seas. I have traveled interstate highways, back roads, beaten paths and though He was and is with me on every leg of the journey thus far, even the parts where I desperately tried to ignore Him, He always leads me back here. Literally. Figuratively.
The summer months of my life were somewhat chaotic: emotionally, relationally. I was not only tossed back and forth by waves, but brought everyone in my life along for the ride. My heart has been divided and torn among so many different things. All the while God is calling to me the verse He has been all along: “Be still and know that I am God.” Oh, how He knows me so well. Knows that especially when chaos enters into my heart, I put on my running shoes - I refuse to sit still. I become fearful of the the stillness and of the silence. Instead of turning to Him to seek knowledge and wisdom and understanding about this life, I turn to anyone and everything except Him. And it only adds to the chaos and confusion in my heart.
But He is patient and faithful and so, so good to me and when I have run myself ragged trying to figure things out apart from Him, I sit still and know that He is God. I humble myself by admitting I have no idea what I’m doing, what I should be doing and I seek Him.
The first few weeks of August, in particular, were incredible. He opened my eyes to so many of His truths in a way I had not ever fully seen. I have never before felt so strongly that truly, I WAS BLIND, and “now I see”. I have never before felt so compelled to SHOUT from my rooftop, my email, my facebook, the pages of my blog, what my eyes have seen and ears have heard and heart has experienced. Because IF this is truth, IF this is really, truly God’s truth, it is the most amazing, incredible and unfathomably LIFE ALTERING TRUTH. IF this is true, really true, then THIS changes EVERYTHING… for me. For you. For all of us.... and the truth is this:
Jesus died to save us from our sins.
Not just some of them. Every single one.
He has cast them as far as the East is from the West and He remembers them NO MORE.
But wait, there’s more: It isn’t just the bondage of sin He came to free us from, but the bondage of everything that goes with it: GUILT, condemnation, SHAME, accusation, REGRET.
And it keeps getting better: once we have truly accepted what He freely offers, He doesn’t see us the way we see ourselves. He doesn’t see us the way our peers or enemies or even our friends see us. We label ourselves based on what the world deems true or what we see when we look in the mirror or by who we have been in our past: I am Nadia Wilder. Broken. Divorced. Ashamed. Guilty. But to Him, oh to Him, He sees me as His beloved, His calls me his child, loved, forgiven, redeemed, restored.
I know what you’re thinking. You’ve heard all of this, believed all of this, know all of this. Yea, so had I. But what if when we accept it and believe it, what if that is only the beginning? Over the course of a few overwhelming days, He began to unravel the chaos in my heart. Splinters of deep-rooted guilt and shame and untreated pain and unconfessed sin and regret, buried deep within my heart.
Turns out, I had been clinging to some things from my past – namely guilt & shame, I just had different names for it. It was cleverly disguised and cleverly hidden, but was an ever-present notion in my mind and deep ache in my soul. It led to a constant longing and belief that I had to somehow “right” the wrongs of my past in order to please God. It was consuming me, my prayer time, my life altogether. I had been going to God over and over and over about this one thing and yet, when I sat before Him to empty my heart and hands He said this:“My child, why do you keep talking to me about something I have forgotten?”... "I want you to TRUST in my forgiveness". And just like that, I realized… it wasn’t just some of the sin in my life that He forgave me for. It was all of it. I hadn’t fully trusted Him. I hadn’t fully believed Him. Some part of me was still deeming myself unworthy of that kind of grace.
I hid them in my heart trying to figure out a way to “fix” it all. I had chained myself to my past, guilt and shame became my ball and chain. God had opened my prison doors and set me free, but I was drudging through life pulling the weight of sin and shame behind me. Somehow, I believed that what God was calling me to, that this was how he wanted me to live. And he said: “No, THAT is what I DIED to set you FREE from.”
A relief like nothing I have ever known washed over me and I wept. Not just in that moment but off and on all day long and I kept asking, "Is this true?.. Lord, is this really true? Because if this is really true, then this changes everything!"
I searched His word and it was with a new pair of eyes that I read verses I had known most of my life, verses that had meant something to me when I came to saving faith in Him just last year, but had such deeper meaning to me now: Freedom. Freedom. Freedom. Freedom that seems too good to be true. He came to set the CAPTIVES free.
Freedom in His truth and His truth for me, for you, for all of us is this: It really does not matter who we have been, what we have done or the paths we have traveled. The undeniable, unfathomable truth is this: God is not utterly disappointed and disgusted with us the way we are with others – the way we are with ourselves. God is not mad at us, He’s madly in love with us. He loves us. He LOVES us. He longs to forgive us. Why? Not so we can be better people or be good “church” people. Not so we can put on happy church faces and sing happy Sunday songs and do good things and feign some unattainable perfection. No, He longs to forgive us because He loves us and it is only through His love and forgiveness that we can truly experience life on this earth the way were intended to. In the fullness of His presence, His joy, His peace. It is only when we live in the JOY of that kind of saving grace that we can fulfill whatever purpose on this earth that He is calling us to.
It is not freedom to live our lives however we want to. It is quite the opposite. It is freedom that is so overwhelming, so unbelievable that it deepens our love for God in such a way that makes us long to cling to Him, long to follow Him, long to obey Him, long to worship Him. Not on Sunday mornings, but with our very lives. Our obedience – the way we live our lives - FLOWS from our LOVE for Him.
Jesus Himself said, “If you love me, you will obey me.” Let Him love you. Oh, He wants to. He wants to love every part of you, heal every broken place in your heart and in your life, He wants you to know Him and love Him so that you can stop the insanity of trying to fill that void with people and places and things, and instead BE STILL in whatever your circumstance and bask in the glow of His freedom and His love... and peace.
He loves you. He wants to set you free. To experience the life and the LOVE that we were created for, it’s in Him and Him alone.
Kids, this isn't just "the good news", this is the greatest news - and the greatest gift - of all and for all.
“I will run in the path of your commands because you have set my heart free”. ~ Psalm 119:32