Galatians 5:1 tells us "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." This verse that tells us that Jesus died to set us free! But, this verse is quick to say that we are not to let ourselves be burdened again. It is a command, but it is also a warning, implying that it is indeed possible to become a slave again.
Two years ago I was set free from 11 long years of bondage to guilt and shame. When I was 18 years old, one week before I was supposed to leave for college, I found out that I was pregnant. My world was turned upside down in a matter of minutes upon hearing the words "you are pregnant." I was desperate to leave for college, to start a new life, and so I made an appointment for an abortion. I had been a typical teenager (who didn't know Jesus): I loved partying, boys, drinking, smoking, and my friends. I had been raised in church, going to church camps and youth group. I had heard the Word of God my whole life, but my heart had never been surrendered to Christ. I did know that God is the author of life and that abortion was a sin, and even in my hopelessness and desperation, I prayed and asked God to keep me from having an abortion that day. It was a day full of indescribable emotions. As I had the final step, which was the ultrasound, prior to the abortion, the technician told me that I was too far along to have an abortion! She told me that I was six months pregnant! Tears of relief flowed, and it was there, in that abortion clinic, that I finally said "yes" to Jesus, the Lover of my soul who had pursued my life for years. It wasn't a special prayer, it wasn't baptism, it wasn't an alter call - it was me in absolute desperation telling Jesus that "I have screwed up so much and I need You." Since that day, my heart has belonged to Christ.
|Getting to hold Courteney for the first time|
Finding out I was six months pregnant and that I would become a mom very soon changed my life dramatically, as I am sure you can imagine. I remember my brother saying to me "If I were you, I'd be praying for a healthy baby." He wasn't saying that out of any maliciousness. He said it because he knew that my life the six months that I had been pregnant and didn't know it was destructive. And so I did just that, I prayed for a healthy baby. The remainder of my prenatal care was good and uneventful...until the moment that Courteney was born. It was then that the chaos began. The next month and half was spent in the hospital learning of every medical complication that she had and all of the long-term special needs she would have. The guilt started from day one with me asking myself, "Did I do this?" Although as a new Christian I was filling my mind and my heart with the Word, I had convinced myself that Courteney's diseases, disabilities, and syndromes were because of my drinking and smoking during my pregnancy.
Over the years, when I trusted someone, like a close friend or my husband, I would share this burden that I carried. I would receive words of love and encouragement, but ultimately, I am not sure anyone knew what to say. Deep down, I always wanted to ask a doctor whom I trusted, but then I would not do that because I would wonder what they would think of me. Up until Courteney was about 7 years old, I would lie when I was asked by a doctor about my prenatal history. How could I expect them to understand that I never would've done this intentionally? Around the time Courteney was 7 years old, I made the commitment to God that I would no longer lie, that if a physician asked my prenatal history, I would be truthful, ironically I was never asked again.
Although, I would go through times like this of trying to find healing and forgiveness, I was plagued with guilt. I loved this little girl with all my heart, and I woke up each day to meet her needs and care for her delicate little life with joy. I often think that I didn't realize what the effects of such guilt looked like in my life - but God saw, He saw more than I could, more than Dan could, what a life in Him looks like weighed down by guilt and condemnation. For years, God would put on my heart to just ask...but again, it was my pride that kept me from asking the hardest question I could ever ask, "Did I do this?"
About two years ago, I decided that I had to be set free. I had gotten to a point that I would rather hear the worst thing I could ever hear than continue to live in bondage to Satan and his lies. We had an appointment in our home with Courteney's Palliative Care team (this is a team that treats kids with life threatening diseases and addresses quality of life, not quantity). They have been one of those teams that I wouldn't know how to care for Courteney without them. The days leading up to their home visit, I made the decision that this was my chance. It was with people whom I trusted and who probably have heard questions like this before, since they take care of such sick kids.
The hardest decision for me was making the choice to potentially hear the worst thing, as a mother, that I could ever hear, and having to trust God to bring me peace and comfort. It came down to realizing that even if I had done this to Courteney, God could still give me freedom in that truth. But, to live in fear, guilt, and condemnation, I would NEVER find freedom. I asked myself "How would I ever tell Courteney, "How would I ever have a testimony," and "How would I ever proceed in the medical world?" Satan was on the prowl for sure. I made a list of pros and cons and my cons list was rooted in pride, fear, and shame while my pros list was biblical, truth, and freedom filled, and created a dependancy on Christ. Through that list and God's Word - my heart and mind were made up - I wouldn't let Satan win this anymore. God spoke to me through scriptures such as:
When Jesus encountered the woman caught in adultery in John 8:11 - "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin." (I love that Jesus declares this to her!)
And when the disciples see a man born blind and they ask who sinned this man or his parents and Jesus responds in John 9:3 - "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God may be displayed in his life." (Courteney wears a necklace with this scripture on it!)
And there were so many more...but God couldn't have been more clear. He didn't condemn me! That even if it was my sin that did do this to Courteney, He was still sovereign over her life and her formation in my womb. It was for FREEDOM that He had set me FREE!! And His freedom was mine for the taking.
I don't think I had ever been so scared than for that appointment. But I did it! And Dan did it with me - through tears and literally shaking - we both asked the question that held us captive for years. The team that I anticipated would be understanding, was even more kind than I could have imagined. Our doctor came and sat in front of me and put her hand on my knee and looked me directly in the eyes and told me the truth.
Freedom came in that moment! And it had nothing to do with what the doctor's answer to me was...it had everything to do with the fact that I CHOSE truth over lies and FREEDOM over slavery and guilt! I let the God of Peace beat down my adversary, my accuser.
Ladies, in the Christian world we often hear "well, it was God's timing"...let me declare something to you...God's timing is NOW! I lived with needless guilt for 11 long years, and Satan delighted in it and God grieved it. Do you see that really this story has nothing to do with Courteney and her illness, it has everything to do with living in the freedom that Christ died to give us! God desires for us to find freedom and forgiveness in Him today.
"God desires for us to find freedom and forgiveness in Him today."
As we approach and prepare for Resurrection Sunday next month, I pray that you wouldn't give up the things in life that are easy or meaningless - give God the hard things - your guilt, your fear, your condemnation, your past, you sins, your whole heart. Surrender to Him the footholds that you have allowed Satan to have in your life and your heart. Let Him be exactly Who He is...Our Redeemer. He came to give us life and life abundantly (here on earth and in eternity)! And as I had to, CHOOSE today to break those chains of slavery. It's not easy, but it is indeed His Will.