Freedom. It seems to be an illusive ideal. A privilege. Many people have paid the price for another's freedom with their own lives. It's a topic that is much debated in our current political climate. Questions of individual rights, and what should happen to those who infringe upon the rights of others. And yet other countries across the world simply long for a taste of what many of us take for granted. Freedom - it is highly coveted.
It's an important topic. One that deserves discussion, debate, and passion. For to whom much is given, much is required. But in the midst of discussing the general principle, it is easy to loose sight of the faces of real people. Have you ever seen a person who has gained freedom? Have you met a person who has been sold into slavery and seen what liberation day looks like for them as the emerge from the catacombs of darkness? Have you heard the wonder in a person's voice when they have been freed from oppression? As they dare to dip their big toe in the waters of every day life? When the thing they were longing for each and every day has now become their reality. And it's overwhelming. Or the person who is released from prison and now has to find their way on the outside. Or the person that had been shackled to addiction. To a person who has been healed from a medical problem that once confined and defined them. A teenager who leaves a gang behind for a different world. To a person who arrived in the United States after a long awaited immigration process from a country less free - the sense of wonder and awe. To a person who forges a new life as they walk away from abuse.
Have you seen the light in these people's eyes? Firsthand - there is no greater joy to see, than someone who experiences freedom for the first time. Or the joy each and every time they encounter a situation, which in their past, would have had a completely different outcome. Whether they tell the story, or you simply see the quiet smile that crosses their face as they silently rejoice.
But what of the shadow side? Leaving behind abuse, addiction, slavery, oppression…. We tell the stories. We lift them up, but have you had the privilege to walk alongside such a person? An event, a declaration, a decision has been made - they are no longer what they were before. But as miraculous as that is - life doesn't change over night. There is a hard earned grief and pain that cannot be overlooked. As day in and day out - you are really only one step removed from slipping back into who you used to be. To walk alongside someone as they wrestle through fear, live into their true identity, and learn what freedom is? That is a holy calling. It is a long and arduous road filled with turns, mishaps, and challenges. And yet - when those eyes look up at you with pride, with joy, with compassion as they battle for each hard won step? It is worth every moment of heart ache.
And yet our God delights to walk this journey with us. After 430 years in slavery, God takes his very own people - rescued, beloved, declared to be his own - through a desert journey. To speak words over them. To build their identity into them. Because when you have come from an oppression that runs so deep - it requires your life to be built on a deep truth, and it is easy to run back to circumstance and what has been spoken over you your whole life, and generation upon generation passed. So God choose to pursue his people. He speaks tenderly and lovingly. Restoring each and every heart ache. Healing. Creating and restoring that which was broken.
It was not an easy road. It was one constantly and continually filled with heart break. The great moment of rescue as they were led out triumphantly. Miraculously. And then trying to live into the every day?
And so too do we find ourselves in the same place. That which looked like defeat became the greatest victory. Sin, death, and the devil defeated. The tomb is empty. We are freed from, and freed for. But for what? Our shame. Our addiction. Our brokenness. It still feels real. The challenges of living into the gift are daunting and almost overwhelming at times. We are afraid to come out of hiding. Afraid maybe this miraculous event wasn't as miraculous as it's been explained to us. Maybe it isn't real. Our eyes tell us one thing, and our hearts another.
And so we embark on this journey together as we live into the truth of God, and not our circumstance. We choose not to deny our past. We don't skim over the pain, the brokenness, but rather begin the hard work of allowing God to transform us by His Word, by His Spirit. To bring healing and restoration.
Because it would have been enough for God to create the world.
It would have been enough to call a people as His own.
It would have been enough to provide rescue, time and time again.
It would have been enough to become flesh and dwell among us.
It would have been enough to redeem us as the cross.
It would have been enough to declare victory at the empty tomb.
But what man has meant for evil, God has meant for good. So as we wander this Easter journey together. As God beckons us into the desert to form us as his own. As we wander like the disciples moving between fear and joy as we truly live into our freedom…. God's restoration is a deep gift. As He weaves the pain, brokenness, death and sin of our past to bring life and freedom for another. For the good works that He has prepared for us in advance to do. That His Spirit would speak words of life through us, so that another would taste the freedom and the goodness found in Jesus Christ. It's not a journey for the faint of heart, but your Beloved calls out to you again.
"God rescues us from the dominion of darkness and brings us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom there is the redemption and forgiveness of sin." -Colossians 1:13-14
The tomb is still empty.