Sunday, February 19, 2012

Freedom and Cats

Yes, I am beginning this post with this ridiculous and adorable picture of a morbidly obese cat that has been forced into wearing denim overalls by his cruel owner.

When I first saw this picture, I thought it was hilarious, so I saved it to the desktop on my computer.

But after the experience I had this weekend, it became evident to me that although the cat looked adorable, he didn’t look happy, and he didn’t look comfortable. Just take a look at him. Those overalls look adorable, but he’s so obese that it’s clear that those overalls barely fit him. His body has been restrained into this uncomfortable piece of clothing. It almost seems like his body is waiting to break out of those overalls so he can live his normal cat life with confidence and peace.
And over the weekend, I learned that most of us are like this cat.

This weekend, I had the privilege of attending a women’s weekend retreat through my church here in Bowling Green. The topic for the weekend was “Journey to Freedom.”

Our first session was about having freedom from the past and the mistakes we have made in life. Our speaker, Maria Owens (who came all the way from South Carolina by the way), spoke to us about all the harnesses that hold us back from a life of freedom in Christ. The key verse for the session was Galatians 5:1, which says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery”(NIV).

In this verse, the first part is about what has already been done by Christ for us, and the second part is about how we can take hold of that freedom Christ wants for us for ourselves.

For me, it was and still is so wonderful to know that Christ had already provided that freedom for me, and that I could take it at any time I wanted to. But the only problem was that there were many things in my life that were in my way of taking this freedom without any hesitation.

Actually, that seemed to be the case for many people that night. After the session was over, I looked around the room and saw lots of people in tears. There were so many people that had been held back by these past trials or experiences, and I was one of those people.

But for some reason, I wasn’t crying along with the majority of the women who were. I felt the need to cry, but I couldn’t, and maybe this was because I knew what I had been hiding for years. I’d realized it very long ago, and had always wanted to be transparent about it, so that I would be able to be free.

Transparency had always been an area that I wanted to strive in. In being transparent with others, I knew that I could have freedom for myself, and that by sharing my story, I could bring freedom to others by the Grace of God.

I knew all these things, and there were times when I was so ready to share and be transparent, but then I would think about the crowd of people I would share it with, and I would immediately stop in my tracks. I thought about all the people I might share it with, and I couldn’t bring myself to do it because I was so afraid that my closest friends would turn from me and walk the other way. I was afraid of what other people would think of me, and so I had never been transparent about it before.

Mind you, this is what stopped me every time I thought about being transparent about my life. That night, it was still something that was stopping me, but it had come to the point where God wasn’t going to have this lie stop me from sharing anymore.

I was thinking about sharing, and realized that I needed to share this for God, because it was something that would make me even closer to him. And suddenly, I asked myself the question, “What’s more important: your relationship with God, or your relationship with your friends?”

I knew the answer to this question. And I knew I had to share.

And that next day, I finally did, in front of a group of 80 women. Some of them knew me well, some of them knew me, and some of them barely even knew who I was, but I know that when I shared during that time, I was able to bring others freedom by candidly talking about something I struggled with that was just never talked about among groups of women. It was something that society didn’t even acknowledge as a struggle among women.

That day, I was able to free other women, grow closer to God, and free myself from what I had been hiding. Now, I feel the most free I have ever felt in my life. I feel free to be myself around everyone, even if they have no idea what my deepest secret is.

Folks, I will tell you, this is not a fairy tale. This is absolutely real life, and it’s something you can have too. Please, don’t let yourself continue to be that oversized cat in undersized denim overalls. I don’t want you to have to suffer like that, and neither does God.

And honestly, when you’re able to free yourself from those past yokes in your life, you will realize that no one is going to judge you, run away from you, or think lesser than you. They will just think of you as stronger than you were before, and they will thank you for sharing.

I just wanted to share this because it’s something that’s made such a difference in my life already, even though it’s only been a day since I’ve shared.  

Just keep this in mind: Freedom is a gift that is waiting for you today, you are just the one in charge of accepting it for yourself. What's holding you back?