Tuesday, April 4, 2017

on Freedom

 I have found myself thinking a lot about slavery and freedom. A dichotomy of my profession is that I see both sides of that coin on a daily basis. There are many I work with still fighting to find their way out of the slavery in which they are bound, be that addiction...domestic violence...poverty or any other number of captors. I also have have the joy of watching many break free and learn to walk in that freedom. The funny thing about slavery is that freedom is just the first step. Learning to live free is a whole other issue. So often you can be free while still living like a slave. If you don't believe me, read about the modern day effects of slavery on the African American population. Although slavery was outlawed in this country over 150 years ago, it's impact on the lives and culture of it's victims continue today. (I won't get into that here, this is not the place for it. But if you'd like to read more, here is a simple place to start Ways Slavery Still Affects the Black Community ) When you have generations enslaved, it takes generations to break free. My own genealogy is generations of addiction. My parents, my grandparents and on and on. I was able to break free from addiction nearly 19 years ago but changing my behaviors and mindset have taken much longer. Years of counseling, recovery work, tough conversations and lessons learned the hard way were necessary. I have had to be willing to look at myself in the mirror many times and be willing to face what is there. Naively, I thought addiction was the chain I needed broken. I had no idea that was just the first one. I have spent the past ten years learning to be free from codependency, shame, self condemnation, spiritual abuse, patriarchy and the expectations of others. I have come a long way and I still have a long way to go. But today... I am secure in who I am. I am unashamed of my past or present failures. I am unafraid to be vulnerable. I have learned to love myself as a woman and a leader, making no excuses for that and unwilling to yield to those who would want otherwise. But what I never expected in this journey was how uncomfortable I would become with others' slavery. It's as if I have had blinders removed from my eyes and there is no putting them back on. I posted on Facebook the other day the following thought:

I am no longer able to be in the presence of bondage without addressing it. I can no longer watch someone drag around their chains without offering them help removing them. I can no long stay silent while you operate as slave when you truly are free. Because once you have tasted freedom, you have to share it. When you have learned how to fly, you can't help but show others how to use their wings. One of my favorite thoughts is from Stephanie Gretzinger, a worship leader at Bethel Church. In one of her live videos she says the following:

"We were all born with wings and made to fly. Throw off the heavy things that have kept you from flying. You've believed the lie that you were made for the ground but you've wanted to fly so badly. But you've always had wings. and it's only been a matter of growing them and learning to fly! Whether it's that you didn't know you had wings or you were afraid to fly, let perfect love come in."

Because perfect love strips away the lies we've believed about ourselves, the lies our slavers have taught us, the mindset of bondage.

That little voice that tells you you will never be good enough
That you will always be a victim
That this is just who you are
That things will never be different for you
That you will never be free.

That voice is shame and the antidote to shame is identity. Shame tells us that we are the sum of our wrongs. Identity tells us that I am not what I have been delivered from but what I am being delivered to. Shame tells us we will forever suffer the consequences of our bad choices. Identity tells us that we have overcome and we will flourish in that freedom. Shame is operating in agreement with a lie, identity is operating in the truth of who you are. When the voice in my head won't be silent, I am learning to replace those lies with truth.

I am free.

I am not bound by other's expectations of me.

I am created in the image of God.

I can walk in that identity with freedom from condemnation.

I am created to co-rule and as an heir to the kingdom

I never again have to "Know my place"

I am no longer addicted

My failures are my teachers and I will not be ashamed of them

I can be strong and vulnerable at the same time

I will walk in who I was created to be and will not apologize for it

If shame is whispering in your ear, or shouting at your back, silence it with truth. If those chains are lying around your feet calling you to pick them back, it's time to fly away. If you are believing lies about yourself, ask the creator to replace it with truth. If you don't have anyone in your life who will fight with you in this battle, I am here. You never fight alone. It's time to fly.