Happy 4th of July! On the day when we celebrate our freedom as a nation, I thought I would share my story of freedom with you. It took years before I found out what true freedom feels like. In fact for the longest time, I chose to teach others about freedom from my own prison cell. I watched others experience what I so desperately wanted, yet remained so elusive for me.
On this day we celebrate freedom as a nation; our independence from tyranny. We live in the most powerful nation on earth with more “rights” than people in other nations dream about. However, the freedom I’m talking about is a different type of freedom, this freedom is spiritual freedom. Although this type of freedom is the most limitless freedom you can ever experience. I was not only freed from inner tyranny, my entire life was made new.
“I tell my story, not so that I get glory, but so that others may know HOPE.”
free yet bound
You can read a bit about me on My Story page, so I won’t go into great detail in this post. As a young woman, I came to know Jesus Christ as my Savior and began my journey to a more intimate relationship with Him. I struggled with self-worth and felt burdened by poor choices I made, and at first found great peace. Initially, I believe I did experience freedom in a sense, as I knew from John 1:12, I was now a child of God. More importantly, I understood from Romans 6:20-23 that God forgave my sins.
But over time the initial peace and freedom seemed to fade. I still struggled with self-worth, and felt stagnate in my relationship with Christ. Reminding myself often of God’s promises, I made every attempt to hold onto the assurance that I was truly free from the past. Yet, in the quietness of my soul I still heard the rattle of chains.
darkness that parades as light
Despite countless prayers for freedom and the knowledge that Christ sets captives free, I just never “felt” free. My dysfunctional way of dealing with troubled relationships was to assume I was the problem. I came to the conclusion that I needed to earn God’s approval to really be free and got busy “serving”. By nature I am compassionate, so ministry came easy for me. I gladly shared with others how they could find forgiveness and freedom in Christ, seeing many lives changed. I somehow thought freedom was for everyone else but me.
Making the “ultimate” sacrifice, I went with my husband and children to the mission field in a third world country and served there for eight years. Additionally, I was a ministry leader, taught Bible studies, counselled others knowledgeably from the Bible. Still, in the quietness of my soul the rattle of chains refused to stop. The light I thought I created in service was merely darkness parading as light. Would I ever know what true freedom feels like?
Shame was written on my chains
In some weird way I accepted the fact that this was as good as it would ever be for me. After all, Christ forgave my sins, making me a child of God and promised me eternal life. But why did this knowledge not taste like freedom for me? The answer to that question would not come for many years. Oddly enough, the answer to my question came as I answered the very same question for someone else.
Perhaps because of my own pain from my past, I am drawn to the marginalized. In any situation I seek out the person on the “outside”, lingering but not really a part of what’s going on. To go along with that, people seem compelled to tell me their stories, even strangers share personal pain with me in the oddest places. One day, as I offered listening support to a young woman, I shared with her two words that changed both our lives. As she shared her pain, I told her she “was loved“. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a look of desperation in a person’s eyes before. She needed to hear those words, and so did I.
The more she shared, the more I felt like she was telling my story. She was broken by sin, but crippled by shame; hearing of Christ’s unconditional love for her broke the bonds of shame. As I continued speaking to her, God spoke the same words over me. He opened my eyes to see that He not only forgave and removed my sin, but He shattered my shame.
“It’s time to leave the shackles behind and dance in the freedom of Christ.”
shame said i was unworthy
The transformation for both of us was staggering. Joy and hope replaced the desperation in her eyes and she truly began to grow in the Lord. For me, I felt as if I no longer carried a huge weight and for the first time in many years, in the quietness of my soul, no chains rattled.
Shame is a belief created due to life circumstances, sometimes of our own making, or in my case due to abuse at the hands of others. This results in a system of rules that says we are not worthy of love or acceptance. Shame sets up a game we have no chance of winning. It creates a life where we are not allowed to make mistakes, or allow anyone to see our faults. Because each time we do, it’s another confirmation the belief is true. Shame is subversive because it is bound to our identity, who “we are”. Conversely guilt speaks to our regret over what “we’ve done”.
true freedom cancels shame
I don’t mean to give the impression that in a moment years of pain were erased. In one sense they were; when Christ spoke to my heart that He loved me, accepted me, my eyes were open. The lie that shame told of me not being worthy of love and acceptance was exposed. Where once the identity shame gave me was all I could see, now I was a new creature in Christ, all things became new. In that sense it was all erased. But in another sense, I had work to do. I had to examine years of dysfunctional thinking and coping mechanisms.
That’s why I said shame was subversive. Because it is entrenched in your identity, it becomes difficult to overcome. God shined the glorious light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into my soul revealing His immeasurable love for me. Not because of who I am , but because of who He is. The chains were broken in an instant, but I had to choose not to keep putting them back on by believing the lie. I had been free all along, but chose to keep the chains, now they were gone. But I had to work to keep them off.
“It is when we become captives to God’s truth, that we find real FREEDOM”
Healing is a journey
My healing journey continues; each day God reminds me of His love and my future with Him. He reminds me that He doesn’t love my suffering, but He loves me, that I will have trials, but He will never leave me. He reminds me that His peace and purpose are there in the midst of every storm.
Many of the techniques that I share with you here at Serenity in Suffering™ are the very techniques I used to personally grow and heal from past pain. And they are the same techniques I still use to bring peace and healing to my soul.
What true freedom feels like
The true freedom that Christ gave me let the real “Donna” out of the prison of lies that shame built. Somehow I was willing for Him to see the bad things that I did and receive His forgiveness, but I was ashamed for Him to see “me”. I poured my heart out over the bad things done to me, but was ashamed for Him to see the damaged me. But He never stopped pursuing me until I was ready to embrace the whole truth; I was unconditionally loved, accepted, seen and heard. He freed me to be who He intended me to be, whole and complete in Him.
My past doesn’t define my future because my future is in Him and He makes all things new. But I had to believe the truth and trust Him. When I struggled, I would remind myself of the truth of the gospel; that Jesus died for my sins, and purchased me on the Cross to give me an eternal future with Him. I couldn’t earn it, it was FREE. What does true freedom feel like? It feels like grace offered by two nail pierced hands.