Free. I seem to come across this word a lot lately. It’s stitched in black on a white pillow to decorate a house with. It’s on the cover of a journal as a little inspiration for it’s writer. And it’s this cover for someone’s facebook page. It’s quite the fashionable word now along with ‘Adventure’ and ‘Wanderlust’. What picture comes into your mind when you think of the word, ‘free’? Is it running as fast as you can on a sunny day? Is it the opportunity to walk out your front door to go see new places? Is it to have your burdens, worries and pains removed from consuming your thought life? So you can ‘just be free’.
The image that comes to my mind has been there for a number of years. It involves a bird and a cage which of course is the opposite picture of freedom. But that was how I felt; like a bird in a closed cage and all I wanted was to be free. Do you know when I thought of this image most? It was during worship. I love expressing my thoughts to God through song as it involves using your mind, your heart and your words. I wanted to sing to God with all that I was, raising my hands high as some offering of praise. However, at that time I knew that I was holding back from giving God my everything. I had experienced the freedom that comes with surrender before and I wasn’t in that place in my heart and in my life. We believe the lie that says ‘I will just do things my own way because how could I ever experience freedom when I’m not doing what I want to do?’. I chose to believe this lie and live by it, seeking to fulfill whatever I thought was good for me. Then why didn’t it feel so good? I certainly didn’t feel free. If we claim that the scriptures are true, then how do we approach our lives knowing that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”? Do we carry on minding our own business, building our own empires of work, family, leisure and not even considering that perhaps there is Some one out there who knows what is best for us with the best path to take. It is only through seeking His will, His thoughts, His guidance that we find true freedom. We find freedom because it is only found ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is.’
When I was that bird in a closed cage. I could see outside of it. I could see how it could be and I could see how others were free. I had experienced the stretching out of wings before, so to speak, and now I had chosen to be enslaved inside this cage. I was now bound to a life that looks miserably out at what I could have but too stubborn to change anything about my life that would cause that door to be opened. And that key word was ‘surrender’. I had also enslaved myself to fear. Although desperate for a change in my relationship with God and in my life, I was desperately afraid to live that life too. It would mean sacrifice and being willing to not be in as much control of my life as I wanted. I believed the lie so much that I thought that I would never be free (or truly happy) if I lived the life that God wanted me to. So I stood in church on a Sunday morning and looked at others raise their hands and belt out their heart as well as the songs. I stood there instead and thought of that bird, who once woke up singing every morning to new mercies but was now silent and trapped.
I was reminded this week of that image of the bird and the cage. Since my last blog post on How Do You Like Your Steak? , I have felt such a burden lift from my shoulders and I have experienced some of that freedom. I was trying to be open and honest with others but to myself as well. I think of the verse that says ‘then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ I don’t want to live by some of the lies that I was living by, I want to live by truths because it is only truth that can gives us freedom.
I also thought of the bird and cage as I sat at work with Andrew, and gazed at his pet, cockatiel, in it’s cage. It stretches it’s wings often and it does have some time to fly around the room, for short distances and usually to land on my head or on my shoulders.
Anyways, I have been thinking about the strength of his wings. I know that he is limited in the distance he can fly because he doesn’t have the opportunity to go out of doors. I think of those moments where I felt like I didn’t have the strength to make a tough decision or follow through. If only I had recalled in 2 Corinthians12.9 where it states that ‘his strength is made perfect in our weakness.’, I would have realized a lot quicker that relying on God for the strength would put me on the path to being free.
It is no surprise to us when we read about being sheltered in His wings as in Psalm 91. When we think of a bird about to take off to fly, we imagine it taking a step off a high ledge in order to spread out it’s wings and soar. We see not only that it is relying on the strength of it’s wings but it is also placing a trust in it’s wings that will enable it to soar and not crash to the ground. God wants us to do those same things when we surrender- to rely on his strength to soar and place our trust in his protection. He wants us to do so because He knows that if ‘the Son sets you free, then you are free indeed.’ It isn’t just a word used for decoration or inspiration or to appear to our viewers. It is real and tangeable. It is now within us where the Spirit dwells. It appears in our thought life as we live by truths and no longer by the burdens that may lay heavily upon us. It lives in our homes and our work places where we are not enslaved by our fears and trust in a God who shelters us in His wings. It comes to expression in our worship as we can sing with all that we are, with all of the praise that our God deserves.
Are you that bird in a cage, holding something back- too fearful to fully let go or too stubborn to surrender to God’s way? Can you worship God with your life and whole being with an openess and honesty? Are you living by lies that are keeping you locked up and from experiencing true freedom? This isn’t the life intended for us. Christ came to give us life and life to the FULL. JOHN 10.10. Not just a part of our lives. Not just some of it. But all! The world is obviously searching for a way to ‘just be free’. So let us point to the very thing that will set us free for ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’Galatians 5.1