CHRISTIAN LIFE & GROWTH
By Lauren A. Birago
Who knew I would get the answer from the shepherds abiding in a field. Their actions were more significant than their identities. Without the mention of names or lineage, they were chosen to receive the message of our savior's birth first and used as an example for those who'd notice.
My heart had been through many phases and fluctuated between them all; a state of loss, a state of brokenness, a phase of bitterness with an inability to let go of what polluted it. After singing his praises as an invitation to his presence on many occasions yet still carrying a weight that my heart could no longer hold, I found myself searching for an escape. I was caught in the notion that if I just stayed obedient to God's word, I'd find the way out. I did this for a long time, expecting God's mercy and release. At first I was hopeful, and I would notice God's move in my circumstances. At times I grew impatient, though I knew patience was required. Most often I sunk into discouragement. I seemed to be in the same place despite the obedience that I thought would set me free.
My actions were sincere as I considered perspectives beyond my own. I searched for characteristics that needed to change within me. Those that I found, I worked hard to change through prayer and genuine attempts to look forward instead of back. Any tools that could help me overcome feelings that had me bound were tested and tried. I sought the help of other believers for advice, support, and ultimate deliverance, but the bruises on my heart would return, and I made very little progress toward freedom.
As I explored possible reasons for my stagnancy, I stumbled upon one that was hiding in plain sight. In all my efforts to escape I was merely looking at the details outside of me; viewing the confinement as the four walls that I called my home, the tangible limitations that kept me from moving to where I wanted to be, and the past that led me to my cell. Though these external things were restrictive in their own way, the true imprisonment lay within me, as God recently revealed. If there was going to be an exit, it would start with my mental and spiritual captivity; within boundaries I may not have set, but where I allowed myself to remain.
This was a disheartening message. I had spent so much effort trying to rectify my circumstances, rebuild my heart, and redefine my value, but apparently with the wrong perspective. Momentarily I felt as if these efforts were for not, and that the energy poured into them over the last few years was wasted. The gentleness of God overrode this discouragement and I was reminded that those years promoted extensive growth, growth that led me to this moment and would ultimately lead me out.
I had more work to do. I had to do more than obey. I had to have the courage to look inside and examine the contents of my prison. This was not something to embark on alone, for whatever is inside would be difficult to look at and even more painful to accept. The words that rested in my spirit were, "I must follow." This made sense because God knows where I am supposed to be, and following him would finally get me there. I did not know the difference between obeying and following, so I asked him. I gained the understanding that I can be obedient and remain stagnant. I can follow his commands but continue to stay on the same level in Christ. What he needed me to do was move. I didn't know what to add to my obedience or what would cause movement, but I figured the answer was in his word.
I was in the second chapter of Luke and noticed something I had missed several times before even though it came right before a very familiar account of the night Christ was born. In Luke 2:8-18 there were shepherds that the angel of the Lord chose to be the first to receive the news of his birth. Only their roles were mentioned, but their actions spoke volumes. When the angel spoke, they believed, expected and obeyed. They believed the news, expected to see him, and obeyed the unction to go find him. Their actions gave me the formula I was looking for. Following the Lord in my situation meant I must first believe that God will perform whatever he needs to get me out. I then have to expect what will be waiting for me when I'm released. Finally I need to obey the unction, the leading of the Lord.
Following God to another level has a cost, that being, my comfort. Since I cannot stay where I am spiritually, leaving my comfort is mandatory. So far I have learned that my release has been waiting for me since I began to feel restricted, but I remain here because I need validation. Anger fueled by the imprisonment feels secure because it justifies the pain in my heart that has yet to go away. The assumption that others will disapprove of the painful residue, and label it as un-forgiveness has evidence of truth, so I feel the need to prove to myself that it is okay to take this long; that I am not on anyone's schedule but my own. This realization has not given me a sense of accomplishment nor encouragement, but it has let me know that I'm on the right track.
Amazingly, as I see God work in my life daily, on things that seem separate from my current trek, I'm beginning to understand what it truly means to follow. He made the first move by revealing where my prison really is and telling me to follow him out. I began to search for what that meant, and he responded by showing himself in the external things that I once viewed as the bars holding me in. This momentum continues; his step then my step, my proactive move in accordance with his revelation, and his affirming reward. Through his disclosures and his remedies, he shows me that I am actually moving after him. I am following.
Even though I am now aware that freedom has been waiting for me, I'm just at the beginning of my journey because I cannot reach it from this spiritual level. Believing and expecting are the two additives needed to transform my obedience into a vehicle of elevation. I expect to have my comfort disrupted; I expect to meet more pain as I grow from one level to another, and I expect to reach an exit that is more glorious than I can imagine.
"...he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised..." Luke 4:18 (KJV).
Photo Credit: Eli Bishop Urbex Photography; some rights reserved
Tags: Christian-Life | Depression | Personal-Life
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Published on 10-1-13