Sunday, July 31, 2011

Barefooted Freedom

Somewhere along the road of life I decided my feet were ugly. A random comment became an internalized thought that repeated itself in my mind until I decided I had no business showing my feet in public. With no specific reason or evidence, I just decided they were ugly. From that point on, I never wore flip-flops (back in the day we used to call them “thongs” but now that just seems wrong) or sandals, or even open-toed pumps. If we were going to the beach, I would wear tennis shoes and socks until we reached the sand. Then I would slip my shoes off and promptly bury my feet in the sand so no one would have to look at my feet.
Bottom line? I became ashamed of my feet based on some random and probably inaccurate information. How often does shame play mind games with us?  We think there are parts of ourselves that we have to hide from others and from God. We think if others really knew us, they would not like or approve of us. Sometimes we might even picture God as being ashamed of us. Of course, we would never say it in so many words, but do you know what I’m talking about? That vague feeling that somehow God might be disappointed in you. That He “has to” accept you because of Jesus but that deep inside, He feels some sense of disappointment with you?
I think the Israelites might have felt their share of shame.  After all, it has been the ugly inheritance of all humankind since the beginning of time. After Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate from the one tree He had told them not to, they immediately felt shame. They wanted to cover themselves and they wanted to hide. Oh, how I identify with their reaction. “Maybe if I pretend hard enough, no one will really know how badly I messed up, how badly I feel about myself. Maybe if I build enough walls around myself, around my heart, no one will ever find the real me.”
But God came looking for Adam and Eve . . . and He comes looking for us. I used to read that story in Genesis 3 and picture God kind of hunting Adam and Eve down, wanting to “call them out” about their sin. But the more I get to know Him, the more I think that is not His heart toward His beloved children. I wonder if maybe He was sad that they felt like they had to hide from Him. Yes, He was heartbroken over their sin, and yes, there were going to be consequences for their sin. But He also ALREADY had in mind a solution for their sin. A remedy for their shame and pain and helplessness.  For OUR pain and shame and helplessness.
Maybe that’s why the Israelites needed their Year of Jubilee. They lived so many years in actual physical bondage. But I’m sure they also experienced the emotional “slavery” that comes from those feelings of doing the wrong thing time and time again, disappointing the one Person you most want to please.  And God, knowing His people better than they knew themselves, offered them a time, a Year of Jubilee. when they would be set free from their bondage.  And He knew that there would come a time when we could all be set free by His Son.
How much time do we spend hiding? Ashamed of what we’ve done, or even who we are? Thinking we don’t want to see the look of disappointment on God’s face if we come out of hiding? When all along, He is waiting there with the remedy. He doesn’t  want us to hide.  He seeks us out and whispers to us    “It’s okay. I already have the solution. You do not need to be ashamed anymore. You have received Christ’s righteousness and all I see when I look at You is my precious, beloved child.  I am singing over you and celebrating you and you do not have to hide! You are free!”
So, back to my feet for just a moment . . . .Last week, my daughter and I were getting ready to go on our annual girls’ trip with dear friends. I walked by the living room and saw her painting her toenails with a flourish. I went in the other room, grabbed a bottle of bright red polish and painted my own toenails . . . it is my year of Jubilee, after all. And when we went to pick up last minute supplies, I picked out a pair of flip-flops for myself.  When I put them on before heading to the beach with our friends, they all said I had cute feet! And the amazing part was I don’t think they were just saying that to be nice. I looked down at my own feet and decided maybe they aren’t ugly after all. And if I can believe that, maybe I can also believe that God really does see value and worth in me. That He is not ashamed or disappointed in me.  That He rejoices over me with singing. And if that thought doesn’t set me free, I don’t know what will.
So, if you see me at Payless during the next “Buy One Get One” sale, it just might be a few pairs of sandals I will be purchasing. And I just might be caught wearing them more often during my Year of Jubilee.
"He will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with His love. He will rejoice over you with singing."  Zephaniah 3:17

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A New Beginning?

I’m turning 50 years old in a few short months.  Until recently, I was dreading this milestone.  After all, my life is, at this point, most likely more than half over.  Have I accomplished enough?  Have I done what I was meant to do in these first 49 years?
I have definitely noticed the not-so-subtle signs of midlife . . . the print on labels and in footnotes has gotten so much smaller than it used to be. And sometimes I can’t help but heavily sigh when getting out of bed or getting up from sitting on the floor.  Some people might call it groaning, but I prefer “heavy sighing”.  Join me in my delusion, won’t you?  Maybe I should just be glad I can still sit on the floor. Anyway, I am facing more and more reminders that I am not getting any younger.
Compounding the everyday anxieties of growing older, there is the battle with ongoing insecurities, fears, and worries.  To be honest, I don’t know how many of these battles that I fight are universal and how many are unique.  I only know that I am constantly struggling with these issues, and I know they are keeping me from experiencing the abundant and free life Jesus is offering to me with every new day.
So all of these thoughts have been floating somewhere around in my brain as I am also contemplating the fact that my next birthday is a “big one”.  And I happen to listen to an interview with Paul Young, the author of The Shack.  He talks about the tragedies, struggles, battles, and poor choices that made up the first part of his life.  Then, after a crisis, when everything comes to a head, he is forced to deal with all the “junk” in his life and he comes to understand God’s grace and love in amazing new ways, which led to his writing the book, which he actually only meant to be a gift for his family and close friends.  And this happens somewhere around the time he is turning 50.  He talks about the fiftieth year being the year of Jubilee for the Israelites, the year when freedom is proclaimed to everyone (more about this in future blogs . . . for now, if you want the Scripture reference it is Leviticus 25 . . . and, as a sidenote,  if anyone had ever told me that a major turning point in my emotional and spiritual life would have revolved around a chapter in Leviticus, I would have laughed in their faces.)
I started to think . . . “What if ... just maybe . . . God wants to use my 50th year (which I randomly defined as the six months before and six months after the day I turn 50) to get me to a place where I can more fully understand and experience His freedom?”   Because I have walked with Him for most of my life, but I have often wondered if I am missing something . . . and I so want to know His love, power, and grace in all its fullness.  (By the way, this means my Year of Jubilee began on July 4th, our country’s Independence Day.  Just a coincidence . .. . but it made me smile).
So I am embarking on a journey . . . I am considering it my own personal Year of Jubilee.  I want to look at the fears and insecurities that have held me captive and kept me enslaved for these first 49 years, what the Year of Jubilee meant for the Israelites and what it might mean for me, and how I can more fully experience the freedom Christ has to offer.
I realize these topics have been dealt with by people infinitely more qualified than me. But I feel like God is calling me to write about my journey.  Maybe only because writing it down will help me to process and reinforce what I am learning.  Or maybe, it just might help or encourage someone else. 
So I invite you to join me on this journey toward more of His grace and freedom.  Doesn’t a Year of Jubilee sound kind of exciting???  I’m in the mood for an adventure . . . and I fear I may have missed a few adventures along the way.  In my first 49 years (pre-Jubilee), that thought would have made me sad and defeated.  But I am getting to know the God who specializes in redeeming and restoring things that were lost or missed. And I think He just may be offering me a new adventure . . . I am trusting Him for the courage and faith to follow.
Let me know what you think. --

“You will experience for yourselves the Truth, and the Truth will free you.”  John 8:32, the Message 

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