Freedom is, by definition, the power or right to act, speak or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. Slavery is, by definition, a relationship where one person has absolute power over another and controls his life, liberty and fortune.
As a teenager I had been engulfed in a life of sin. I was captivated by its lure and enticed by its stronghold. I was a slave to sin, until freedom pursued me and I began to allow God to draw me to Him. As I entered adulthood, I aspired to be happy. I longed for all the normal things that everyone else around me seems to want; to go to church, to be happily married, to be successful in my career, to be financially stable, to have a nice house, to take vacations and to be a good mom. I think I have always been thankful to live in a country where I have the freedom to make these dreams come true through hard work, perseverance and persistence. Then real life hit and it hit hard. Like, Babe Ruth home run hard, or Mike Tyson punch to the gut hard. I began to realize that I was not “free indeed”, but had actually become a slave to the world. God was radically changing my picture of freedom.
By the time I was twenty-five I was divorced, not once, but twice. I was a business owner and a single mom of two precious children, and I never planned for life to be this way. I was hurting, lonely, mad, overwhelmed and frustrated at how all my hard work and efforts had not delivered the happiness and freedom I “deserved” and had planned my life around. Looking back, most of the happiness I longed for seemed good but, to be honest, it was all desires of the flesh. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, rather serve one another through love,” Galatians 5: 13.
God began to teach me that I was not to be sucked into the game. God was (and is) teaching me to be counter-cultural, because we live in a “seek my own happiness/me first/I want more” society. What I am learning is that to truly embrace the freedom Christ offers, I must become a slave. I realize the irony of this statement. What God is teaching me is that until I lay my plans at the feet of Jesus, surrender to His will, and submit to His plans, I will never know freedom. Over and over in scripture the men who loved Christ called themselves slaves to Him. In Romans 1: 1 and Philippians 1: 1 Paul refers to himself as a slave for Christ; in Philemon 1: 1 Paul even calls himself a prisoner for Christ; Peter calls himself a slave in 2 Peter 1: 1; James 1: 1 opens with James calling himself a slave as well. You see, these men got it.
God is teaching me that I am called to be a slave for Him. God is calling me to radical obedience, and until I surrender my definition of freedom and embrace submission, I will never live in the freedom He has planned for me. Submission is not the loss of my identity or personality. Submission is the act that grants me the freedom to discover who God intended me to be when He created me. Submission is learning to love myself enough to allow God to lead me. See, when I do things my way, I mess them all up. I was never meant to be in control. Until you and I give up the fight for control and the desire to plan out our happiness, we will miss out on a fantastic, lavish plan God wants to unfold in our lives. This IS FREEDOM. This IS SLAVERY. “‘For I know the plans I have for you’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,'” Jeremiah 29: 11.
Do you feel it?! Do you see how God wants you and I to experience freedom and happiness? He wants us to become prisoners for Christ because He has something surprisingly and mind-blowingly awesome waiting on the other side of obedience. Dying to ourselves brings eternal life in Christ and this is God’s economy. We have to be counter-cultural. God is slowly unveiling His plans for my life. They are not to harm me, but they are to use me to glorify Him. That is my only purpose. His plans are for my life to be a redemption story.
God has redeemed my divorce by giving me a covenant marriage to my very best friend and God lover. A year ago, God told us to go to Kenya so He could show us a world beyond ourselves and I am ruined for Him now. Seven months ago God called us to adopt a beautiful baby girl with chocolate eyes and skin. Satan planned her for abortion, God planned her for redemption. In this act, God brought to life Romans 8: 15. Three months ago, my husband adopted my children from my first failed marriage. God provided a father to the fatherless and redeemed their future. God has given my family countless homeless friends who have nothing in the physical sense, but offer us richness in friendship. God is loving me enough to break my heart for the things that break His and He is calling me to have a heart that is a slave for the suffering of others. He is constantly reminding me to not “use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, rather serve one another with love”.
God is not finished with me because “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finished on the day Christ Jesus returns,” Philippians 1: 6. But in order to be free I will have to die to myself daily and embrace slavery to God’s perfect will. Until then, I will never know what true freedom is.