Freedom to walk away

I used to work with offenders.

That’s a terrible way of saying it. Really, I worked in treatment with those who came to me with notes written on their file, like sex offender and domestic violence offender. We used fancy terminology like recidivism and compulsion, but mostly we were concerned with the recurring nature of the problems, the abuse.

I thought, going into it, that I would teach people skills and I would uncover lies; I would advocate for voices that had been silenced. I did, but mostly I learned a lot about others, about myself, and about grace; about what is dirty and clean, what is conceivable, and what is forgivable.

I had to look in a mirror in that work and come face to face with this Truth:

I am capable.

I am not better.

I am not above.

Chief of sinners, though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me.

See, I have a slightly shady past. At this point in my life, I like to follow that up with, “don’t most of us?!” because it’s true. Most of us have struggled at one point or another with one big, bold question and it is robbing freedom right and left, for me, for you, for those who have rebelled, offended, abused, and every person in the middle of all of that-

Am I forgivable?

Until we answer this question our sins will haunt us and our offenses will remain the same. That was a giant lesson I learned. Mental capacity, family structure, employability – all were important, but slightly irrelevant in recidivism, that fancy word that means “Will they do it again?”

Galatians 5:17-21 tells us we have a flesh-and-Spirit war going on inside of us and around us, as believers or unbelievers. Satan wants our souls. The best way he can figure getting them is through the entanglement of shame:

For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Paul lists all of these deep and difficult things that separate us from God, quickly, or slowly over time as they are practiced. When we hate, when we have fits of rage, when we envy, when we act out in sexual immorality, we turn away from God just enough so that we can’t see Truth and then Satan uses shame to keep us turned, believing a lie that this thing, this sin cannot be forgiven.

A funny thing happens, we keep at it. Without a place to turn, we just keep walking straight into the desires of the flesh, into sexual immorality, into jealousy, into discord.

Jump ahead to Galatians 6:1 –

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

In hearing the Word of Truth, in another person opening our hearts and minds to the Spirit’s work, we can walk away…

walk away from shame

walk away from unforgiveness

walk into Light

walk into redemption.

God forgives. He forgives division, He forgives dissension, He forgives sorcery. He forgives orgies, he forgives idolatry. He forgives every dark thing we could encounter and He breathes life into broken hearts who have been abused, used, and tossed aside.

He also gives us one another to fight the good fight and walk away.

Whether your past looks like sexual impurity and selfishness or that of someone else’s, whether you did pretty darn good and avoided rebellion altogether…

You are forgivable.

You are forgiven in Christ Jesus.

You are loved.

He restores. Walk to Him in the Spirit and away from all the junk of life.

Forgiven, Restored, Set Free.

Live free.

Discussion questions:

What sins do you think people label as “worse sins”?

How do labels for “worse sins” rob all of us of the freedom found in Christ Jesus? What part do you see shame playing?

What darkness have you seen Christ overcome in your past or around you that shines His Freedom into your life?

 

Finding Help and Healing:

If you need help and healing for sexual abuse or assault go to https://www.rainn.org/

If you need help and healing for domestic violence go to http://www.thehotline.org/

Find help and healing for porn addiction and sexual compulsivity at https://www.xxxchurch.com/

Find help and healing for violent behaviors in a specialized local treatment program. You pastor can help you find a local one, pray with you, and offer ongoing spiritual care and confession.

Freedom from perfection: The day I stopped cleaning my house

Two years ago I stopped cleaning my house. Not completely, just strategically when friends were coming over.

Do I sound like a crazy woman yet?

You see, I have a problem with perfection.

It eats at me.

I like things just so, just right, just…perfect.

And they never will be.

The weight of perfection was crushing me a few years ago and I knew a Band-Aid needed to be ripped off somewhere. My house was the easiest place to start. I began an adventure of fighting for imperfect.

I created a schedule for cleaning my house, because I like to fight germs and all that, and I held myself to the schedule. I refused to clean something just because someone was coming over. I had ruined too many cups of coffee with friends by getting up in the middle to clean that little place behind the toilet seat that never, ever seems clean. I had sat down to too many delightful dinners with friends filled with the anxiety of wondering what they would notice I missed.

My house example is so small in the grand scheme of what is important in life, but Paul reminds us in Galatians 2:15-19, that no piece of our lives should be ruled by perfection:

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. 17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.

What are we living for?

I chase freedom like crazy with my spray bottle of vinegar and washcloth. I scrub and I scrub so that life feels more perfect and when you walk into my house you won’t judge me. I chase freedom in the law by assuming I’ll feel better if I can just appear a little more put together.

The law demands perfection.

 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4 (emphasis added)

What kind of requirement is in the law? Righteous, yes. Right, justifiable, perfect, yes.

We can never live up to the law. God may not care how clean my house is, but I am, by nature, and by deed, imperfect. My house is just another reminder that there’s always something- I will never, never, “have it together.” It’s Biblical Truth.

But God, He does something more. He does something different. I am freed from perfection by Christ Jesus. He fulfilled what I cannot, so I can live for what matters – Gospel.

In fighting the urge to clean my house for you to visit me, I take perfection off the table in our relationship. I stop assuming judgement on your part, which was never really fair to begin with.

I do not clean for you, because if I clean for you that assumes that there is a judgement of what my house should look like, what you expect it to look like in order for us to maintain our relationship. But I believe better of you, my friend. I believe you love me enough to not judge me, to give Gospel and share grace. I believe that when you come over you come to see me, you don’t come to see any part of my house, that living to God means that relationship matters more than “just so.” The house is simply a platform, a location, a place that is warm and friendly, that we can gather.

I think dropping the assumption of judgement from others is the only way we can end all the judging. I will not judge you, I will not judge your house, I will not judge your family I will not judge your kids, I will simply be your friend and love you.

This seems to me very connected to the Gospel motivation Paul props up in Galatians 2:19:

For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.

We died to the law. Literally died to it, in our baptism. All this judgement, one woman to another, perceived or real, it means nothing.

We need not aim for perfect. Christ already came to our “house,” our lives, our families, cleaned it up by His blood, proclaims us holy in Him. Now we just live there, proclaiming His gospel grace to one another.

Chasing perfect – It’s so tempting.

Dropping perfect – It’s a challenge.

Freedom in Christ – already won.

It is for freedom Christ has set us free… let’s live there.


Discussion questions:

What area of life do you struggle with trying to be perfect or at least avoid the judgement of others?

How can we help one another embrace more freedom from the judgement of others?

Chose one area of life – family, chores, work, exercise, volunteering, neighboring, ministry, etc. – what Gospel message do you need to hear there? How can you let the Holy Spirit motivate via the Gospel instead of seeking motivation through the law of should’s and must’s?

 

Dear Girls, He is Not Your Savior: Addressing our desire, our value and our worth


I’ll be honest, middle school was not my finest.

It was so difficult for me that when I started coaching a very fine group of 5-8th grade cheerleaders on a whim, I felt like I was stepping back into my 8th grade year and my internal anxiety was through the roof.

Who really wants to walk back into middle school?

No one, ever.

I have a theory that middle school is hard because we desperately want one of two things:

To be noticed or to be not noticed. Or the third option…a little bit of both.

In middle school we don’t know our desires, as girls, as budding women, or as people, but as we grow we begin to identify them more clearly.

We want to be loved.

We want to know we’re valued, worthwhile.

We want to feel safe, physically, emotionally, and relationally.

There’s probably more, but I think those are the big three, particularly for girls.

Some thing weird happens too, sometimes we have no idea where to find them. We start searching, searching, and searching some more…we look every where, but we mostly look at men to tell us, what only God can –

We are loved.

We are valued.

We are safely held by Him for eternity.

A few months ago, I wrote this article for Concordia Publishing House –

Dear Girls, He is Not Your Savior

It’s about our deepest desires, the problem of sin, the struggle of Satan trying to hide what is good from us, and the weight of expectations in relationships.

As the months passed, I wanted to hash all this out a bit more; to understand why my wild, young, and rebellious heart looked everywhere but to God for fulfillment in this life, and why it’s a struggle still today.

Why do I so often want a man to fill me, when I know good and well that only God can?

You’ll find a few of the answers I found here, in this new podcast episode: Dear Girls, He is Not Your Savior.

It present 5 things I think we’re searching for, a few good questions for evaluating our expectations in our relationships, and also offers encouragement, whether you’re single, married, young, old, wild, or tame – to run to God, run. He’s already got you anyway.

You are loved by Him.

You are valued by Him.

You are safe in His arms.

I’d love to hear from you. Tell me your experiences, your thoughts, or send your questions. We’re all figuring our this life together, led, and fully filled up by our Savior.