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Hallelujah, I Am Free

I've been in church essentially my whole life. One could joke my spiritual upbringing is a bit like Joseph's coat of many colors (which actually might not have been as colorful as Hollywood suggests, but I digress). From Methodist and Catholic to Baptist and non-denominational, I (we, really) now call a Pentecostal church home.

But no matter which church's pews I sit in, the themes of "sacrifices" and "being set free" sit with me. For 31 years, I equated these words with what my human mind considered big things. Addictions, shame, regret, forgiveness for those "major" sins, dreams you had that weren't born from God; you get the picture. I couldn't quite wrap my mind around what it truly meant for me.

Now, please read, I struggle with sin just like everyone else. Gluttony, pride, selfishness, dumb decisions; I've sure been there and still visit sometimes. But my brain rationalized that those weren't what Jesus meant when he said to lay down my burdens; they weren't big enough. I it wasn't what He meant when He said we're to sacrifice ourselves for Him; I wasn't giving up anything I liked. They were trivial things to deal with on my own. Yes, I prayed for forgiveness and have turned situations over to God. But I can't say I truly, truly sacrificed and or laid things down.

Cue a series of conversations and sermons that shifted my perspective. During a counseling session, I word-vomitted the thoughts tumbling through my mind. Shouts of how incapable, not confident, and unprepared I was to ride a horse like Scooter. My counselor asked, "Where does this stem from? Is it an event or something from your past that's lingering? Or is it just the devil trying to convince you of things that aren't true?" Whew. What a question... I immediately knew it was the latter. When God sets you on a path forward, of course Satan is going to try and knock you off course. She encouraged me to pray and sacrifice those feelings, those whispered lies. She told me those things were my sacrifice at this time in my life.

Then cue a sermon that emphasized my understanding. On the first day of the year, no less. Our pastor brought a message focused on passionately pursuing the presence of God (you can find the sermon here; 12/10 recommend). He challenged the church to make this a year where we run after God with all we have, then he listed three things that hold us back from doing so. The major points of each of the numbers below are from Justin's message; the rest of it is how I applied it to this particular lesson.

1) We are comfortable with where we are, we like the familiar. Even if the comfortable and familiar is less than God has for us. Even if the comfortable and familiar is holding us back from accomplishing our dreams and racing ahead. We like feeling secure. So we stay there. We don't ask God to work miracles in our own lives, to break those chains we carry. Because if we do, things will change. And that's scary.

Or perhaps we get stuck.... We've been in church so long, we've heard the sermons so many times we forget that it's meant for us. It's meant for every single person. We forget how wonderful, how powerful, how amazing God is.

2) We worry about the opinion of others. How hard is it for us to admit we're held in bondage? Whether it's those stereotypical struggles we think about or those invisible lies we hold on to, we hesitate to be honest.

3) Ourselves. We get in our own way. And this is the point that hit me square in the feels. Justin says, "We let shame and regret and guilt and things from our past trip us up from what God has for us." God wants us to run, but we tell him we can't. We sound like Moses giving excuse after excuse. But I'm the only one in my own way. God set me free. He set me free from sin and shame, absolutely. And He set me free from the lies the world and the devil and others whisper that tell me I'm not good enough, I'll never make it, I can't do it. He set me free. I need to get out of my own way. My past does not hold anything for my future.

So this year, I am saying goodbye to all the things holding me back. I'm letting go of those struggles. Will it take time? Yep. Will it be easy? Maybe not. That's OK. Because God's got me. And, hallelujah, I am free.

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