Twelve years in Christian school just didn’t work for me. Now before my mom and dad read this and think they wasted a ton of money and time driving me 40 minutes to school every day, and all of my teachers think their teaching effort was wasted, stay with me, I’ll explain. I did what I was supposed to do, memorized the scripture, sang the songs, wore dresses 3 times a week, went to chapel every week, etc. But I didn’t understand why I did all of these things until after I left school. If I’m being honest, not until years after leaving school, and having kids did it really hit home for me. So after growing up in a Christian home, going to church weekly, and 12 years of private, Christian education, it took another 15ish years after for me to understand why I did all of those things, and grumbled and complained about it for so many years.
We’ve developed a saying around our house when Charles started crawling and the girls would chase after him, grab him, and treat him like their real life baby doll. He’d fuss and whine because he did not want to be controlled (still doesn’t), so we are constantly telling the girls, “let him be free!” Well that was me growing up, I just wanted to be free, we all do, we’re born craving control. I saw my school, church and childhood as just a bunch of rules and I had no control. I wouldn’t say I was sheltered, I had boundaries, just didn’t fully understand why they were set in place.
So when I left home and went to college, I felt like I was finally free. I had the independence I craved, I was in control of my life, made my own decisions, supported myself. I was “free” to my own standards, and man did I mess up. This was a false sense of freedom. Because I felt like I was in control, I then spent years after that feeling guilty of all of the mistakes I made, after all, there was no one else to blame. But that’s not the life God has for us, feeling guilty and shame for our mistakes. There’s another way, true freedom we have in Christ.
I had always heard the verse from John growing up, talking about “the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” and I just thought that the whole idea was such an oxymoron. So you mean I’m free, but I can’t do what I want? So you mean I’m free, but I have to go to church and memorize scripture? I’m free, but I can’t wear that outfit like she has or go to that movie with those friends? You say I’m free, but why do I feel guilty every time I do something the Bible considers wrong? This doesn’t sound very freeing.
Striving to do like Jesus did and following Gods commandments gives us freedom that seems indescribable, but I’m going to try to explain it from my understanding. I once heard the concept explained as telling your child not to put a butter knife into an electrical socket. They really want to do it, it looks really fun, they’re so curious, but as a parent, you tell them not to do it because it could be really bad. (You could insert a ton of other examples here that’s just the one that has stuck with me for years.) In the same way we tell our kids what to do and not to do, God knows whats best for us. He sets parameters for us to live by FOR OUR OWN GOOD.
But he knows we are going to mess up, just like we know it’s going to take our kids a few times for them to get it right when we’re trying to teach them something. He’s training us, leading us, coaching us and He is not the condemning, angry, punishing God that I had in my mind growing up. He picks us up and loves us, just like we do with our kids when they mess up. He forgives, He doesn’t shame, He gives us chance after chance to get it right.
THAT my friend is freedom.
It has taken me way too long to fully grasp the concept of freedom in Christ. I say fully grasp but I don’t think I’ll ever fully grasp it, it’s a constant challenge to completely understand how amazing this freedom really is. Now that I somewhat get it, I just want to shout it from the roof tops! If only I understood this growing up, it would have saved me so much heartache and confusion. But sometimes that’s not how God works, I had to learn it the hard way and I now appreciate it so much more than I would have years ago.
I’m currently in a women’s Bible study discussing Galatians and the topic of freedom; it has been so encouraging. As a Christian, I’m constantly in battle with myself between what I want to do and what the Spirit wants me to do, and Paul says that’s normal and to be expected. He warns us to not take advantage of this freedom, however, to do whatever we want. But as we learn to obey Him, as we mess up and learn, and then mess up again, and learn again, we grow. Life isn’t considered easier per say, but we appreciate Gods love and mercy so much more because we know we don’t deserve it. We feel free to try again, free from our worry, and free from fear. Our perspective and outlook shifts.
My view of the Bible is completely different than it was 15-20 years ago. Where it used to be a bunch of rules, it’s now a guidebook. Where it used to be a bunch of stories to memorize, it’s now examples of people who are just like me. Where it used to be condemning, it’s now encouraging. Where it used to be a chore, it’s now a delight to read. In an age where we are constantly striving for information, googling everything, seeking truth and answers, I thank God every day for His word. It’s never changing and always applicable. I have trust in Him more now than I ever have because of the freedom I feel and I want every single person in this world to feel that.
Paul says in Galatians 5:1, “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.”
Easter is next week and what a perfect time to celebrate our emancipation from the slavery of our past mistakes. Romans 6:23 says the “wages of our sin is death,” but we are free from the guilt, shame and weight of our sins because He died for us and rose again.
So in all the years I spent in Christian school, I never got it. I never got how amazing God is and why we so desperately need Him. All those years were laying the foundation of my faith, BUT no matter what our background, whether we’ve heard and studied the Bible all of our life or we’ve just heard about Jesus for the first time. He died and rose from the dead for ALL of us, we are ALL His and we ALL get to experience His unconditional love for free.