These autumn reflections remind us of the needful cycles and seasons of life, and the freedom that Jesus gives us when we are willing to let go. Like the beautiful autumn leaves, our lives will reflect the radiant splendor and the gentle surrender that comes from trusting in the gracious love of Christ- especially when we release all of the burdens from which Jesus came to free us.
THE FREEDOM FROM OUR MISTAKES AND SINS OF THE PAST
For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 (NRSV)
When I am walking each morning, my right arm tends to swing freely while my left arm remains fairly stationary. At first this was puzzling to me- until I realized that I usually hang my purse on my left shoulder with my hand clutching the strap. This has become such a regular habit that even when I don’t have my purse with me, I still walk as if I do! If others were to notice my immobile left arm, they might assume that I am in pain or burdened or hampered in some way. While I am actually free and unencumbered, no one would know this by observing me.
I do not carry my purse, but I continue to walk as if I do.
Jesus came to take away our burdens, but how many of us continue to walk as though we are still carrying them? Jesus came to set us free from all that weighs us down, especially the burdens of our past- the burdens of our sin, guilt, mistakes and regrets. For freedom Christ has set us free. But do we truly live and move as freed people?
Years ago, a woman stopped by my office on her way to talk to the pastor. She and I both had been recently divorced, and we began talking about our heartache, guilt and sorrow that came with the ending of our marriages. We also talked about the relief of forgiveness and freedom we found as we began our new lives. But this poor woman was still deeply grieving the years she felt she had lost while living in an unhappy situation. Some of her regret could have been the natural soul-searching we do around midlife, but she seemed especially bitter, sorry and resentful that she had “wasted” so much time.
Did she know that she was also wasting that very day by wallowing in the regret and grief of what might have been? She was losing yet another precious day as she continued to lament her previous days. Even though she understood that she had been forgiven of her sin and freed from her broken marriage, she was unable to embrace that joyous forgiveness and freedom for her life. She remained burdened and consumed by the mistakes of her past.
Jesus wants to fully free us from our baggage. Jesus wants to unburden us so that we can walk differently through this life, to walk with joy and peace and love. One of the best ways we can demonstrate God’s love for the world is to live as forgiven people, with joyful, assured, peaceful spirits, with a lightness of being that comes from the freedom we have found in Christ.
This seems so simple. And yet when we are told, “Here, let me take that burden for you,” we can find it difficult to let go. We can become so accustomed to carrying our burdens that we feel uncomfortable without them. Bearing this additional weight has become our usual way of being, our usual way of walking through life.
At one point I tried to correct my arm movement, trying to swing my left arm to match the swing of my right arm. This felt strange and uncomfortable. We might need to unlearn some of our behaviors and attitudes as we begin to fully appreciate just how free we are. We may need to make a conscious effort on a regular basis. We may need to catch ourselves falling into our old habits and repenting of them. Most of all, we may need to daily entrust ourselves in him whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), to the One who freed us in the first place.
In Christ, we become new creations. We become people who are free to live and love, lightly and joyfully, as witnesses of God’s relieving and releasing forgiveness and love.
Make it so, dear Christ. Make it so.