We started Freedom in Christ as a church. Two thirds of the congregation at Bloxham Baptist are coming together on a Monday afternoon and evening to journey into new places of freedom in our relationships with God. The first week we explored the whole concept of being physically alive but also spiritually alive. That the world we see is just as real as the world that we can’t see. That human beings walking the planet all desire significance, security, and acceptance and that we will go to drastic measures in order to feel a sense of all three regardless of whether or not they are good things for us.
Due to the fall the connection with God was no longer intact and we lost the knowledge of God. This leaves us to discover our identity apart from Him. So physically we are alive but spiritually we are dead. Unless we choose not to be. Human effort cannot re capture what Adam and Eve lost. Only Jesus living a life without sin, dying on a cross for all humanity, and being resurrected is the place where find this connection open and available to us like it was always designed to be. So for me, I humbly accept this gift of salvation knowing and believing that I belong to God. That I am significant, secure and accepted.
When we sit in our groups and explore this, its life giving. It’s freeing therefore I understand the reason for the title of the course. But with that information, it can only be just that….information unless it’s applied to my life daily. We sit around in our group and discuss. I love my group because there are a mix of personality types, different grace stories, a variety of ages, and a mix of three different cultures. The common things that binds us together: the gospel and how that works itself out in our lives. We sit feeling victorious. And then we head home.
As soon as I get home this overwhelming anxiety hits me. It didn’t set in when I was with my group but when I was on my own, it flustered me knocking me straight to my knees. Anxiety can be crippling. The fear can be scary. I could recall the truths we studied in the previous hour but it wasn’t until I was placed in such a vulnerable place that I would choose to sit in them or to let them go and continue to be paralyzed. Over the next couple of days the fear slightly subsided but was still lingering. I hate it when I am not living free so it bothered me greatly to feel this cloud hanging over me.
What I loved though in those moments was this absolute trust I had to have in the word and the power of the book that I base my entire life on. I know that only in His presence does any fear subside so it was an active thing. It was like, God I am desperate for your presence and every thought will be snapshot of the words written in scripture. Without that, I am not going to make it. (Also during this time, a woman from my group had a word for me. She didn’t know I was struggling as much as what I was but she said that I needed to press into Ephesians 6. Putting on the armor of God. Another night while staying at a leader’s house, she said she woke up in the middle of the night with a random phone call. She felt she needed to start praying for the house. Like there was this presence that was pressing in on the house and she needed to pray against it.) All I could think of was, we are in a spiritual battle that so far beyond us. In the end though we know what we are victorious and not because of what we do but for what has been done for us on the cross.
One evening in particular was very difficult, to the point where I had to sit on my knees with my head on the bed and listen to Kari Jobe’s new worship album for probably over an hour. It’s crazy when you can physically feel parts of you inside break. It’s like you get to the end of yourself and then grace comes flooding through. His presence rushes in and you know that you are going to be okay. In that moment all the truths that you have accepted in your head are more than just a theological idea. They become your reality. The next day I had some words of encouragement from a friend that gripped my spirit and led me into a deeper freedom:
“Let Him transform you in weakness. Let Him woo you into His arms. He is near though you might not feel it. It is not your faithfulness or strong hold that keeps Him there. It is His Love and Mercy that pursues you in the midst of trial.”
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her” Hosea 2:14
Between this specific truth and two other perspectives: One from Mike, my pastor here in England and Orlando, my pastor from Summit Church in Florida, there seemed to be a theme coming up. I am also aware that when God is trying to communicate something, He always repeats himself. My perspective was completely flipped on its side.
That in the hard moments, He is there. That He is near. And that is not down to me, it’s down to what He has already done. That moving back to England feels like such a victory and there is an excitement of what God is doing but it comes with a confession that I can’t be independent from God in order to carry out the task in which He has given. That is requires a childlike faith that is not rooted in head theology but rooted in living and being in His presence. And that with the transition there will be brokenness, pain, anxiety, feelings of homesickness and dislocation. That I need not to be afraid of those things but rather to embrace them. There wouldn’t be a Pentecost without a Calvary. That I really understand that I want to live my life from a state of joy that is Christ centered. If I can trust Him with my salvation then surely I can trust Him in the midst of my current circumstances. That pain gives life to greater joy and there is Calvary road that we all must walk.
Ultimately it will bring me closer to my maker. That is what I want, that is what I truly desire. That everything within me is found in Him. I have had to do a lot of accepting and letting go. Of accepting the present, the here and now. But also of letting go of what is no longer anymore. A lot of these realities are difficult to swallow and a lot of them are freeing and life giving. It’s finding the balance within the tension.
It’s saying, You God have everything. For my joy is at stake and that requires obedience even when I don’t understand. In fact, understanding is not required. There is loss, yet there is greater gain. To know Christ and the power of His resurrection not only in my life but in the lives of the young people that He have entrusted into my care for this season. To radiate you, to shine for you in a world that is in desperate need of hope.
( A little side note to leave you with: I love my church here. I love the young people. I have an excitement that runs deep. I am excited to see how they are going to grow and flourish into who God has called them to be as individuals but also how they will interact as the body of Christ together and impact this community. My leadership team is brilliant. What a privilege it is to serve with such humble, open, teachable leaders that just love Jesus. Especially Annabel for she has been such an encouragement to me. And I am also so thankful for my church family back in the states. Without the prayers and constant encouragement I would find it difficult to keep going.)