For a reason I cannot explain, I decided it would be a good idea to go for a run under the sweltering afternoon sun yesterday (Saturday). The first mile was a painless cruise, and I smiled and waved at each passerby. Shortly after that first mile I began to feel the intense heat on my face, but shrugged it off and kept on rolling. Eventually I decided to turn around and felt an instant wave of regret. The wind was to my back and the sun was directly on my face. I felt like I was running through a wildfire, and I’m sure I looked about that way too! I stopped for a second to wipe the sweat from my eyes, and then pushed on as hard as I could until I reached home (funny how I now refer to YWAM DP as home). But I didn’t stop running once I made it back onto the path that leads to my casita; I kept going and going until the very edge of our dock and ran straight into the ocean. There was a half a second of air, and then my body immersed into what felt like a cool satin blanket. I stayed under as long as I could as the crisp water tickled my toes and revived my fingers. The ocean felt so invigorating I almost opened my mouth to take a big gulp, but quickly decided against that plan. I eventually came back up to the surface to breathe, as that’s usually necessary (I’m not a mermaid yet but I’m working on it), but the surface just wasn’t as exciting. I went under again and again as I was only alive when I was consumed by this big blue puddle of joy.
As I was reflecting on this joyous moment yesterday, I came across a word that would describe the experience well… freedom. Simple yet profound, like all my favorite things in this world. On my run I was trapped under the hot sun and by the beads of salty sweat running down into my eyes. But when I took that leap of faith into the water I was free.
I think that little situation of mine is a nice analogy for our relationship with the Lord.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1
This past week was ironically called freedom week, and it was taught by the founder of YWAM DP Lynn Toney. Lynn is a passionate woman whose light shines so brightly it blinds those around her in God’s love. During freedom week we talked about being free in Christ, and the amazing life we can live when we are free in Christ. Of course true freedom requires a leap of faith, as I had to take a small jump and experience a second of free fall before I hit the water. But once we do take that leap of faith we are all consumed and covered in his love. I learned that in many different forms this past week. I learned a lot about myself and how the inconsistent and twisted ways that I see myself are affecting the ways that I see God. I had to approach situations from my past in oder to experience freedom. I had to run a long, hot, sweaty path that I didn’t particularly enjoy in order to experience freedom, but boy was it worth it. Christ accepts us wherever we are, carrying ugly loads and scars, but he doesn’t want us to stay there. I gave him my heart years ago, but as I get closer and closer to him he is asking for more than my heart. He wants my life, my thoughts, my decisions, and most importantly he wants the weights that I am not strong enough to carry. And when I finally surrendered those weights to him He set me free.
“He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” – Psalm 23: 2-3
If I could give myself a personal “theme” for this season in my life here in Belize I would call it “dare to hope” because the Lord has been beckoning me to hope in the plans and purposes he has for my life (especially because I currently don’t have a clue what’s next for me). Well, in that, the Lord has asked me to accept the blessings that he wants to freely give me. For most of my life I have been carrying the load that I have to earn and work for love, because if I don’t deserve it I won’t receive it. If I made a mistake I lost love, and had to work extra hard in order to deserve any. Well this twisted way of thinking influenced the way that I saw God. I thought that in oder to receive love from the Lord I had to work for him. I had to serve until my eyes bled, and then he would show me his love for me. If I sinned, then I would lose his love and would have to work extra hard and put myself down because that’s what I deserve. Well, in an interesting series of events this week, the Lord revealed to me that weight, and how unnecessary it is for me to carry. One day in class Lynn asked us to write a letter to ourselves from God and to wait and pray until He speaks to us. Immediately I began thinking to myself what God will probably say to me. He’ll tell me the things I need to do better and the things I need to do less of. He’ll tell me where I was wrong and why, and how I need to try harder to do better next time. But when I sat down to hear from Him, I waited a moment in silence and heard “I love you. That’s it.” And that was it. That’s all I heard. I got no other word from the Lord. And then it hit me. I try and earn the love of the Lord. Who am I to say that I can earn the love of the creator of this universe. If I’m going to get it, it’s going to be a gift, and that’s the beauty of it. But that is so hard for me to accept, because I have lived opposite of that for my entire life. **pause for quick dance party outside at the palapa** Anyway, since I have gotten to DP I have been overwhelmed by an increasing and overflowing joy. And at many times I have felt guilty for feeling so much joy. No Lord, shouldn’t I be suffering? Shouldn’t I be struggling? Why are you blessing me? I couldn’t understand why the Lord would want to bless me without any effort of my own. All I did was jump on a plane, and now the Lord keeps giving and giving. He has given me amazing new friends, a wonderful casita full of girls whom I love with my whole being, delicious food at every meal, and THE OCEAN. I do not deserve any of this, but the Lord gave it to me anyway. It blows my mind, and before this week, I was afraid of it. Despite what others have shown me in life, there is nothing I can do to earn or lose the love of the Lord. He has given me his whole heart because he loves me, and that’s it. A basic concept of freedom in Christ is accepting his FREE love; and it is that basic concept that was keeping me from freedom in Him. I was chaining myself to myself because I’m not perfect. I was constantly telling myself that I wasn’t good enough to earn love. I am scared of failing, of falling short, of expecting to feel his love but not being able to. But living in the freedom of Christ requires faith that His love will carry us through this life into the eternal. It requires hope. It comes in a full circle. The Lord revealed to me a weight I was still carrying, asked me to announce in front of my class that I have to forgive myself for trying to earn his love, and He asked me simply to dare to hope that I could sit in my room for the rest of my life and he would still bless me because He just loves me that much. When I obeyed Him and let go I was immersed so surely in his love, just like I was in the water after my run, and today I have felt his love with a new and overwhelming depth.
I encourage you, as Lynn encouraged me, to ask the Lord what unnecessary weights you are carrying, and give them over to Him in order to experience the freedom of Christ. It is a wonderfully beautiful thing.
“Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30