Goodbye January. Hello February.
When I was cleaning the house and thinking what to do with my blog this month I started coming up with ‘F’ words to go with February – good ones, honestly. Some were to do with the weather here like frost and flippin’ freezing, but no one wants to concentrate on that. So first is freedom.
In the US it is National Freedom Day on 1 February – marking Abraham Lincoln’s signing of a resolution on 1 February 1865 to propose the 13th amendment outlawing slavery. (Boy, that’s a mouthful – ‘signing a resolution to propose…’).
Last year I got to visit the Lincoln Memorial while we were in Washington DC. It’s an impressive sight, built to resemble a Greek temple. Very grand.
It’s great to celebrate that resolution and the work of other abolitionists, and slaves, in the 19th century fighting injustice, but it’s important to remember that slavery did not cease to exist with the passing of the 13th amendment or any other legislation. Far from it. It may look a little different, but slavery never stopped. In fact it exists in far greater numbers now than it has ever done in history – an estimated 45 million slaves in the world today. Every one of them a person, a daughter, a son, a father, a mother, a sister, a brother, a wife, a husband…each made in the image of God and made for freedom.
I write this again – as I know I have done often before – to remind myself as well as my readers. At times of challenge it’s easy to become focused inwards. In the last month I wanted to cocoon my family and myself from the world, shut it all out. Everything seemed too much to cope with. I didn’t want to care any more, because it was enough to deal with our own problems. My contribution is small, I thought, who would miss it?
That didn’t last too long. There are too many reminders of the good things and freedom I have that others do not. I don’t want to ever become numb to their stories, indifferent to the injustice of their situation or weary of raising awareness of the issue.
It’s not just those held in actual physical slavery that need freedom. Of course their suffering is very apparent, real and raw once we know of it, but we can all be captive to something.
I say this because it is in my own experience. It may seem trivial in comparison, but in my teenage years it’s not exaggerating to say I was captive to an eating disorder. There was a constant stream of negative thoughts that controlled the way I behaved. I was locked in to that illness.
Change came for me when I repented, turned, from the way I was destroying my life and turned to Jesus. I am thankful that Jesus healed me from that moment. It was like night and day. The power of those destructive thoughts was broken, they could no longer control me. I found I could fight them, and I started on the road to eat normally again from then on.
The Bible goes further to say that we are all slaves to sin – living our own way without reference to God. We desire independence, and throughout Scripture it shows just how destructive that choice is. At the moment I’m reading though the Bible with The Bible Project – I highly recommend it if you want to read the Bible right through as a way to understand the big themes that run through the book as a whole. There are helpful little videos to watch along the way which lighten even reading through Leviticus.
Anyway, getting back to freedom, Jesus offers freedom from sin through his death on the cross and his resurrection. He fixed what we can not fix ourselves. In relationship with him is the freedom we long for – freedom from guilt and shame and fear, given total love and acceptance. Blows me away every time. Stepping into this freedom, I find, is a life long process, and it changes me a little every day, but I get to live this adventure and enjoy knowing God more, serving him more – again because I get to, compelled by love not duty. Amazing grace. Amazing freedom.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 NIV