“Tell us how you really feel, Sarah.”
Every time someone says this to me, I chuckle. I know that while they find humor in my willingness to say what I’m thinking, or how I’m feeling on a particular subject, they don’t know WHY I’m so expressive. What they see is this wildcat, firecracker of a woman — who sometimes bulldozes people with her thoughts. She clearly gives no effs. Why is that?
Short answer: Grace jailbreaking me from legalism.
Long answer: Buckle up.
Like many other people that I’ve met, I was under a pretty intense legalistic system where I was trained to deny my own ideas and feelings altogether. Essentially you slowly become a shell of a person, but you are unaware that it’s happening. For years I couldn’t communicate thoughts of my own because I wasn’t allowed to have any that went against the system. You’re told what to believe and how to think. All life decision making goes through the advisement of “godly counsel.” These people believe they have authority over you, given to them by God, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, who will speak to them (and them only) concerning your life. To go against this counsel was considered equal to going against God Himself. To express a different idea was to bring dissention to the group — to usurp the pulpit. The pastors within the system didn’t even have the same beliefs but were not allowed to share with the congregation what those differences were “for the sake of unity”. In actuality, it was for the sake of uniformity.
When you are so spoon fed every thought, belief, and decision about life under the sun– it leaves you lost. You start becoming completely separated from the world around you, as you’re being assimilated into the rigid belief system of acceptance by works. Sometimes this acceptance was obtained by keeping a cheap version of God’s law, but mostly it was just keeping up with a list of man made laws. The religious elite tell you that this is the “holiness” that God demands and is honored by.
Far worse than being taken out of the world you were created for, you are separated and lost from yourself- from the core of who you are- from the things that make you tick as a human. Your identity is stripped from you and is replaced with one built completely on a false prototype created by religious idealists. You take on a new personality, one that is not uniquely you, like the one lovingly given to you by your Creator. You desperately want this God to love you and so, you tow the line. You stop expressing your thoughts- because you think they are all wrong. You bite your tongue. You hold it all in. You smile softer. You laugh quieter. Ever so slowly, you deny that freed girl you once knew. She becomes worse than a distant memory, she is now someone to fear.
Then something so cataclysmic happens, that it wrecks your entire being to the core. The system fails you. You can’t keep up with the rules in the midst of tragedy. You don’t have the strength to please the “powers that be” because someone just took a wrecking ball to your life, and you realize, as the dust is settling, that it’s the Lord himself. None of this was honoring to Him nor was it what He ever intended for His beloved children. What you’ve been through is unnerving. It’s jaw dropping. Spinning out of this system hurts like hell and it’s scary. You have to let go of everything you thought you knew. What you spent time trying to gain was spiritual strength and now you know what God requires is weakness, spiritual poverty. God’s economy is the antithesis to the self righteous system we were callously shoved through like a bunch of worthless cattle. Jesus never said “just do it”. He said, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”
You’ve been taught that the real you is unacceptable to God and now you’re hearing again for the first time that because of Christ, you are in fact, 100% acceptable. He loves you as you are and so you don’t need to be the robot you’ve become. Your identity is not in a strange formulated version of you, but it is in Christ Himself. The Law that has been used as a threat, that the religious system hung over your head? He fulfilled. It is because of His holiness that the Law exists, yes. But it is because of His mercy and grace that the gospel exists. Beloved one, the Gospel has the final say.
“Do you believe that the God of Jesus loves you beyond worthiness and unworthiness, beyond fidelity and infidelity—that he loves you in the morning sun and in the evening rain—that he loves you when your intellect denies it, your emotions refuse it, your whole being rejects it. Do you believe that God loves without condition or reservation and loves you this moment as you are and not as you should be.” -Brennan Manning
He loves the the real you –the version of you that they silenced? He thought to create *that* you before the foundation of the world. While Jesus walked on the earth, he made his inner circle completely out of people who were more than just rough around the edges. They were anything but quiet: They cut off ears, they poured out expensive perfumes at socially unacceptable moments, they wept, they argued, they sang, they danced. They stood with boldness and preached the gospel to people who were ready to crush their heads with stones — They did not hold back. They were loved and set free by God Himself and now, so are you. You’re free to think, move, act, feel and express apart from the fear of condemnation from God. When God is for you, you are free to live apart from fear of those who put you in shackles and required more from you than God himself. You can speak against the false gospel of those who kept you back from the only thing required: faith in the love of God secured for you by the blood of Jesus. You do not have to give any attention to their demands any longer — they hold no authority. Their power is but an illusion. “Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child.”
“I praise God for what he has promised.I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?” Psalm 56:4
When you’ve been that controlled for so long and you are finally set free? You’ll never be quiet again.
*photo credit: You Tube