“For Freedom Christ Has Set You Free!” (Gal. 5:1).
As Paul wrote these words he is saying: God, as a Father, really does want us to be free. It is His idea—urgent and intentional. He wants us out of Egypt, out of slavery, out of darkness, out of shame, out of fear, out of the law of sin and death, out of the compulsion to run, hide and shift blame! Freedom is the presuppositional goal of redemption; the desired end in itself. God is so intent on our freedom because only when we are truly free are we able to respond to Him as spiritually adult sons and daughters.
Recently the Lord challenged me with a particular insight that opened the way to greater personal freedom in a fresh manner. Strangely, I found myself being faced with the idea of not being “safe”! First, I was not truly safe from myself. Then, the threatening idea of others not being “safe” when they are around me was most troubling. Taking my yellow pad out into the back yard, I requested the Lord to show me what could possibly cause me, the bible scholar, to be unsafe. The following list seemed to flow out with such clarity that it was dumbfounding. He seemed too eager!
Here is what I wrote, changing a few words for greater clarity and adding a bit of explanation:
- Unaware of my very own idiosyncrasies
All of us have embraced little behaviors that subconsciously either protect us or reward us. Ungoverned idiosyncrasies are dangerous. My strange little ways threaten others.
- Committed to my own personal preferences
I carefully protect the way I like things and my comfort zone.
- Unable to listen with intentionality, care, and purpose
I cannot truly focus on what the other is saying because I am forming an answer to prove you wrong, myself right, or make sure my idea wins. How often my Judith has said, “Are you really hearing me?”
- The strong urge to control the circumstance
My insecurities cause me to attempt to control others, manage conversation, and avoid threatening topics.
- Defending my need to be right
Correct facts are seldom the issue. My image and superior understanding are urgent.
- Eager to compete with others’ victories
My success must surpass others’ successes: the fish I caught really was bigger than yours!
- Refusal to offer unqualified acceptance
Accepting others is frightening to my standards. Rejection or keeping someone at arm’s distance because I am unable to control them, can be injurious.
- Imprisoned by my own inadequate presuppositions
I refuse to accept the fact that change happened: I was uninformed, outdated, embarrassed.
- Quick to speak, react, and judge
This is most dangerous and injurious. Reactions that are ungoverned and immature are expensive.
- Afraid to speak when proper and required
With all my braggadocio, fear governs. When required to confront, take a stand, or contribute, I freeze.
- Tendency to “weaponize” Scripture
This is an aspect of being right. I threaten, abuse, or accuse others with Scripture to remain in control.
- Repeatedly trying to answer questions never asked
I demonstrate my “wisdom or knowledge” in order to impress, correct or control.
- Unaware that anger makes me a “little bit crazy”
Oh, the cost of anger in marriage, business, and relational context even if it is subtle and not overtly expressed. Damage, very often, is irreparable.
- Minimum confidence that Father God is in control
All of these reveal my unexpressed uncertainty and insecurity, well-hidden even from myself. Strong with my right hand and unable to declare that which is in my left!
As I meditated on the list the Lord had given, I suddenly saw the Holy Spirit had just opened me to what was in my left hand and let me see some of what was hidden behind my back. My right hand states my motive. My left hand contains deeper, hidden, and unknown motives that injure.
Unexpectedly, I realized that I was not the “spiritual adult” presented with my right hand for others to know and admire. Freedom was still a theory. My left hand was holding the protective mechanisms of a lifetime of injuries and failures accumulated in a corrupted world system.
To survive with some illusion of safety, we distance ourselves to a lesser or greater degree from the reality of the left hand, causing it to become some form of personal prison. Our alienated self, seeking to feel safe, is manipulated by a mindset that to some degree is still self-referential and distorted.
My heart ached. The myriad expressions of my injured self were secure, in the iron grip of my left hand. How desperately I wanted others to be safe when they engaged with me in a personal way. Transparency yields freedom and trust.
Recently, I opened the contents of my left hand to two trusted friends. The ensuing intense discussion and hand opening yielded a deeper sense of safety and relational freedom. Our path to freedom may not be complicated, but it is demanding:
- Get a firm grip on the fact that your freedom for freedom’s sake is not only the Father’s urgent desire for you, but probably His most pressing priority.
- Openness and an unqualified hunger for freedom must motivate. We must not approach this naively. Kingdom reality transcends our comfort level.
- Accept that freedom is impossible without human responsibility. I must own what is in my left hand without blame shifting or dismissal.
- Embrace weakness, conflict, and mystery as biblically necessary.
- More scripture and more teaching do not automatically bring freedom.
- No one can identify your list except the Lord.
- We must commit ourselves to the Living Mind of Christ, the only place of real safety. The assistance and strength needed is more than human. “Whom the Son sets free will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Jesus not only asks us to know Scripture but requires that we: come to Him; take His yoke; learn from Him; follow Him; and hear His voice. He is the Living Mind, whose objective is to set us free, taking us to His Father.
Our Challenge: Ask the Holy Spirit what is in our left hands. Let Him open both our hands, maybe one finger at a time. Allow Him to guide us into a growing measure of freedom and safety.