My Story, My Faith: How To Live In Freedom
If this is your first visit to my blog, this post is the third in a series called “My Story, My Faith” and you may want to start at the beginning by clicking here.
My biological maternal grandmother, thankfully, recorded some history of our family. She created this document to honour my deceased great grandmother. I was able to piece together so much of my ancestry because of this document and to get a glimpse of what it was like to live as an African-American in the South during the post-slavery and pre-Civil Rights era. In it, she included this heartbroken story about my great-great grandfather, Sam Stewart:
“Her father Sam Stewart was born in slavery. He was owned by Mr. Harris, sold to him by his former slave owner, Mr. Stewart. He was sold to Mr. Harris when he was about 10 or 11 years of age. The last time he saw his mother was when he was standing on the block to be sold. She was crying and waving goodbye to him. They were living in Virginia at this time. Mr. Harris brought him to Georgia. He was brought up by the Harris plantation. Mr. Harris made him overseer of other slaves. He was the whipping boss. After the slaves were freed, he went back to Virginia looking for his parents. There, he found two cousins who told him his parents were dead and took him to where they were buried. He returned to Georgia. He chose not to be called Sam Harris and went back into his parents' name, the name of Stewart.”
I can’t imagine what it would have been like in those days, to stand by and watch my children be sold and taken far away. What does slavery do to one’s sense of identity? African American slaves were often separated from parents and children, took the name of their owners, not allowed to marry, and endured unimaginable treatment and abuse. They were property to be bought, sold, and used.
The Slave Mindset
I imagine that life must have been very difficult for those newly freed slaves. They may have been freed from slavery, but escaping the slave mindset, I expect that took a bit longer. Imagine being stolen away, given a new name, and having everything that you have ever known to be true about who you are being forced out of you through abuse, shame, and lies. It is these assaults on your mind that can keep you a prisoner long after you are physically freed. Knowing who you are can allow you to live in the freedom and claim the promises that you have been given.
Consider the story of the Hebrews in the book of Exodus. God freed them from the bondage of Egypt. It was only a 10 day journey to the Promised Land but they stayed in limbo between slavery and freedom for forty years! In fact, of the adults who came out of Egypt, only two of them actually moved into the freedom and the promise that God provided for them. The rest stayed stuck in the wilderness because they didn’t know who they were, a chosen people, called out by God to enter the land that had been promised to their forefathers. They knew their history. It had been passed down from generation to generation, yet they had lost their identity as God’s chosen people. Though they were physically free, they died as slaves in the wilderness.
Our Freedom In Christ
When Jesus saves us, He offers us freedom from sin. Not just from sin, but from shame, from the pain of our past, from the emotional and mental prisons, from damage done to us by our parents and peers, from failures, from hangups, from habits, from fears, from bitterness, from anger, from everything and anything that keeps us from living a life full of joy and peace. Yet many of us still live with that slave mindset. We are comfortably uncomfortable in our bondage.
Living in the freedom God has for us may mean facing giants, and marching around walls, and standing in the midst of our enemies. We have fear because we can only see our inability, everything that we are not, instead of seeing God, the great I AM. Our position in Christ gives us access to the God of the universe, the one who placed each and every star in the sky, who formed the earth with His hands. Even in the midst of our greatest fears, this same God is with each of us.
Facing our fears alone would be absolutely terrifying. But we, as children of the living God, are never alone. Ever. I love Psalm 118:6, “The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?” If we can really understand not just what God has saved us from, but what He has saved us to, there would be no stopping us!
It is the same confidence that gave Joshua and Caleb peace about entering the Promised Land, while the ten other spies trembled in fear. It is with this same confidence that young David, armed with only a slingshot and five stones, went out to face Goliath. It is with this same confidence that the Apostle Paul spread the gospel around all of Europe, primarily from prison.
Once we find our confidence in our position that, in Christ, we belong to God, our life changes. Through Jesus Christ, we went from death to life, from imprisoned to freed, from slave to child. We are His. Embrace your life of freedom. Claim His promises. You are no longer a slave! Not only are you free, you have been elevated to a prominent position. A child of God. An heir to the riches that are in Him.
What lies from your past are you believing? You are not who others say you are. You are not what you have done. You are not what was done to you. You are who God says you are: freed, forgiven, wonderfully made, and dearly loved.