Let Freedom Ring

A few weeks ago, Liam and I saw an educational clip during the commercial segment of his favorite cartoon on Nickelodeon. It was about Juneteenth, a holiday observed on June 19th in recognition of the liberation of the last of the slaves in 1865.

The sobering part about this story is that Abraham Lincoln had issued the emancipation proclamation over two years prior to this event. In essence, the individuals who were still serving as slaves were free, but they didn’t know it. No one had bothered to tell them until almost two and a half years later.

I find the parallels between the historical events of this day and the life of a modern Christian at times to be astounding.

Before we came to know Jesus as our Savior, we, too, were slaves. We were held in bondage by sin. But when we placed our faith in Jesus, He wrote an emancipation proclamation over our lives. We were set free.

“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

John 8:36

How easy it is, however, to live as if we were still slaves. We have an enemy that would do anything within his power to make us succumb to our old master, and we also have our own sinful flesh to battle against daily.

Just as the Civil War had to be fought to give slaves their freedom, a civil war wages in our minds each day, and the outcome of each battle will determine if we walk in the freedom we have been given. Will we surrender to sin or to righteousness?

It is a battle that, first and foremost, we must face with the truth by abiding in God’s Word, as stated in the following Scripture:

 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:31-32

Freedom, then, is found in knowing and believing the truth and seeing who we are through the lens of truth.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I began a long and arduous journey into weight loss. It was one that spread over the span of ten years, so you can guess that it was not an easy road for me. It took more discipline and self-control than I thought I could ever possess, and I found myself asking God to give me them often. I messed up a lot during this time; I ate too much junk food at times and put on some of the weight I had lost. But I didn’t give up. I started afresh each time and asked God to help me all the more. And I believe He did. Now, over ten years later, I have been able to maintain the seventy pounds I’ve lost, and I have more confidence, energy, and overall feel more healthy than I ever did in my twenties (Is it just me, or is this starting to sound like a commercial?).

After losing the first forty pounds, which happened within the first two to three years of my weight-loss journey, I started to feel a conflict of identity. Whenever I went to a store to try on clothes, I would always go to the women’s section first. I would then have to remind myself that I was smaller than that and force myself over to the misses’ section of clothing, all the while feeling like a fraud and insecure over what other people must be thinking as they saw me browsing the clothes in that section.

The truth is, I still felt like a bigger woman. I felt pigeon-holed into that identity because I had been overweight since early childhood, so I had learned to see myself in that way and to accept it as an ingrained part of my identity.

Not long after my own mental struggle began, I started to hear about other people having the same issue. It’s apparently a common problem among people who lose weight rapidly.

I have overcome this battle since, but it was not a battle won overnight. I achieved victory through constantly reminding myself of whom I had physically become. I’m glad I got to that point. I couldn’t truly enjoy the transformation I had gone through until I did.

As believers, we have all gone through a transformation. We have been given new identities.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

2 Corinthians 5:17

Just as I had to recite the truth to myself about my size, however, we will often find that we need to recite the truth about who we are in Christ to ourselves. We will have to remind ourselves that we no longer need to shop in our former section of clothing, because God has clothed us in His righteousness.

After the individuals that had been owned as slaves were set free, they and their descendants still had a long road ahead of them in order to obtain equal rights. Although the United States has made progress in this aspect, the fight for complete equality still persists today.

As followers of Christ, we were given rights the moment we believed. Among them, we have been given the right to be called children of God and have been made co-heirs with Christ as a result. This was not something we had to fight for or earn for ourselves. We will not live in the fullness of what God has granted us, however, unless we are once again willing to engage in the battle for our minds. It is still a matter of knowing and believing the truth and seeing ourselves through the lens of truth. It is still a matter of abiding in God’s Word so that we can recognize truth when we see it, and consequently reject a lie when we see one as well.

As the 4th of July draws to an end here in the United States, and we celebrate our own independence and freedom as a nation, I pray that we will become more aware of the freedom we have been given in Christ and understand the battle for our minds in which we must engage. Furthermore, as we fight, I pray that we would do so by immersing ourselves in the truth found in God’s Word. Let us never again live as if we were slaves, because Jesus Himself went to battle on our behalf to give us this freedom through His death on the cross. He shed His blood so that we might have the victory, so let us live in the fullness of our freedom as a result!

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 15:57

The 50-Gallon Jug of Water

Photo by Abhishek Saini from pexels.com

She carries a 50-gallon jug of water with her. Although I’m unsure when she started doing this, it’s safe to assume it has been for years, if not decades. In all reality, it was awaiting her the day she was born.

It’s not a role she wanted. Who would want such a burden to bear? Nonetheless, it was passed onto her, and she has had no other option but to carry it.

We met nearly two years ago when she started taking care of my son at church. I was somewhat aware of the water jug at the time, but I didn’t think too much about it. It’s not something you just ask about, so I put any thoughts of it to the back of my mind and instead focused on what good care she was giving my son.

Several months later, we attended the birthday party for a mutual friend and had a real conversation for perhaps the first time. She mentioned to me that she was attending a new church now, which left me feeling disappointed. Nonetheless, we exchanged numbers and promised each other we’d hang out. It took a few more months, but we finally did and discovered that we had more in common than we could have imagined.

My son got sick a few short months after that, and our family life got turned upside down. But she was there for me throughout that time. She came over once a week to keep me company when I couldn’t get out for Liam’s sake. I probably would have sunk into depression had it not been for those weekly visits. Our afternoon get-togethers helped to alleviate the loneliness during that season of life.

After many months of weekly visits, my thoughts about the water jug started to resurface, and I wanted to ask her questions about it but second-guessed myself. Would I only be bringing up a conversation that was too painful to talk about? Would I unintentionally say something offensive or ignorant and only add to the weight of her already overflowing jug? As a result, I said nothing. As it was, we had so much to talk about anyway. We deeply connected on several areas of life, so we enjoyed talking about those topics instead. Besides, she probably knew that I cared about her and her struggles. We had shared so many of our struggles with each other as it was. Surely, she knew I cared.

But then Dallas happened, and I could no longer keep silent.

As we added ingredients to a mixing bowl for the dessert we were making one afternoon, I asked her about it. How was she feeling in light of this tragedy? What were her thoughts?

In response, she gently took me by the hand and helped me to wade into the waters from where her jug had been filled. We didn’t enter far. She no doubt knew I didn’t know how to swim in this river. But we got our feet wet as she expressed her heart to me about these issues, and I listened with empathy and gratefulness that she had trusted me enough to share. This whole experience was a baby step for me, but it was a good first step that I envisioned would lead to many more.

A half a year later, news of what had happened in Brunswick, Georgia reached our doors, and I found myself acquiring my own water jug by that time. It wasn’t very weighty in comparison to that of my friend’s. Just a gallon at most. But it was one I had acquired as an emotional response to hers in knowing that all these events were only adding to her already overflowing jug.

I walked around my house that week, feeling exhausted by the weight of my own jug. I wanted to cry. I wanted to sleep. I just wanted to make it all go away. And all I could think about, as I carried my one-gallon jug around, was how heavy her jug must be and how much of a part of her life it was. This was her life. It had always been.

I thought to make a care package for her. It was nothing ornate or incredibly special since the pandemic was in place and my ability to get to the store was limited. Nonetheless, I did the best I could and hoped it would show her how much I cared.

As I drove to her place the next morning, I called her to confirm she’d be home when I dropped the present off at her door.

She told me how sweet it was of me to give her a gift and how she should really be doing something for me since it was Mother’s Day.

The words gushed out of my mouth as I explained to her why I wanted to give her this care package. I told her about my newly acquired water jug and how I was grieving over the heaviness of her own as I carried around my lighter burden. And once again, all I could think about was how this was her life and had always been.

She cried, and so did I. And after dropping off the package on her porch that day, I drove away asking God to comfort her heart and to show me how I could love her well in the midst of so much wrong in this world. I wanted to help bring about real change, and I needed God to show me how.

I wish I could say that carrying my gallon jug alongside my friend has been a means of bearing her burden, but I don’t think it is. And even as her other friends have come alongside her and carried their own gallon water jugs in solidarity, I don’t think these acts have diminished her load. How can the weight of the water be made less, after all, when the water doesn’t cease to keep being poured into her jug?

Still, I hope she finds comfort as we walk beside her and express our concern and desire for a better future for her and others who share her same path.

I imagine a day where she and many others like her will lead the way up a grassy knoll. They will lead, and those of us with smaller-sized jugs will follow. And then, in one sweeping motion, we will all pour out our water and shatter our jugs once and for all with shouts of joy and triumph.

And as these shouts of celebration reverberate on that hill and saturate the sky, the walls will crumble to the ground. Every stone and brick of hatred, racism, oppression, prejudice, discrimination, and injustice will fall down and break to pieces, never to be built up again.

But until God brings that day to fruition, let us “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17 ESV).