Harriet Tubman, the great emancipator of thousands of slaves in America is quoted as saying,
“I freed thousands of slaves. I could have freed thousands more, if they had known they were slaves.”
About the same time I stumbled across this quote, I was in a long season of running myself into exhaustion- saying yes to everything, and experiencing the driest soul experiences that I had ever tasted before in my life.
That’s a painful thing to watch someone do. My family suffered, my relationships suffered, my soul suffered. And one night, as my husband stood by, gently holding me in his arms as I spiraled down in tears, he said something that has never left me. He told me that all of my striving had left me as nothing more than a slave.
I have to admit those words were definitely not what I wanted to hear! But the truth that lingered refused to be denied. I wanted to reject, defend and fight- but my heart knew the truth and disabled my argument. I was giving, giving, giving, and others were taking, taking, taking. The things that I was saying yes to, were leaving deep divots of less in so many areas of my life- especially in the lives of my family members. I had become enslaved to doing, and I didn’t even know it.
I was a captive unaware.
Maybe the disease to please and do isn’t your taskmaster. Could the things you eat- or don’t eat, the stuff you buy, social media, watching TV, working out, over-functioning in relationships, the importance of your job, your ministry, or your gifting be forces that are binding you up?
The opposite of freedom is being bound in chains, and in this case, the power of knowing holds the key to your freedom.
John 8:32 says, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Our flesh has not been trained to deny itself or to deny others. Our own impulses, combined with those of our culture, press us toward excess, leaving us weak-willed and under a fake veneer of “having it all and being it all ” which is masking a new kind of slavery that we need to be liberated from.
Are there activities and commitments that feel heavy and draining in your life right now?
Who are the people you feel like you must appease, or the ones that always leave you feeling worse after you’ve been in their presence?
Do you have strong, lingering thoughts about buying and acquiring things?
Are you choosing fear that’s packaged to look like good habits or the perfect, “best” way to eat?
What might freedom look and feel like in any and all of these areas?
One of the best examples of liberation in the Bible is outlined in the book of Exodus. It’s there that we learn about the Israelites and their exodus from Egypt. When they were finally freed from over 400 years of slavery at the hands of the Egyptians, they weren’t ready to roll straight into an occupied Promised Land. God knew that in order for them to be free, He needed to do more than just take them out of Egypt, He needed to take the Egypt out of them. So, God led them in the desert for 40 years and He gave them a new mentality. He used their desert experience to refine and curb their passions, He extracted the slave mentality from within them, and infused a freedom mentality in its place. He prepared them for the Promise Land through the desert boot camp that they endured.
I love that they did not have to wander alone, God was with them.
“He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire.” Exodus 13:21
He’s promised to be with us in our desert spaces too, and will guide us if we let him.
“For God has said,‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you. 6 So we can say with confidence,‘The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear.”Hebrews 13:5-6
When we don’t get what we want, when we feel stuck in a season that just won’t end, when we feel unseen, or when the ache of loss and loneliness hits hard, IT HURTS! We feel our flesh die a thousand slow deaths as “He prepares us for what He’s prepared for us” (Christine Caine). But this is also a space where we can experience the invigorating sensation of freedom being breathed into our souls too!
As flesh and pride gets weaker, our faith and our souls get stronger.
Is there an area in your life that feels like a dry, hot and barren desert? If so, invite God into it. Ask Him for help, comfort and guidance as you navigate the unknown and uncomfortable aspects of this situation.
What difference does it make to view this circumstance as the fertile soil of your growth, where God prepares you for what He’s prepared for you?