By Andy Vaughn
Last week I had the pleasure of holding a sleeping seven pound ball of potential. Two of my dear friends, Dan and Sydney, recently had their first child. His name is Oliver, and you can see the features of his family tree from his nose right down to his toes. I met Dan and Sydney when I started volunteering in their youth group. They're only 19 and 20 years old now, although I still think of them as the kids I met just a few years ago. They're young, in love, and already have the next generation in their arms.
As I drove over to the hospital I was incredibly pumped to meet this little dude that my two friends had just spawned. You could call it many things from hopeful and happy to expectant or exuberant. But the simplest way to describe how I felt when I think about these two kids having a kid of their own is this: utter joy.
For people who're struggling to have a child the topic of other people being blessed with kiddos tends to be a touchy one. Many times when people are entrenched in the battle to conceive they struggle to feel genuine joy for others that don't have the same battle. In fact, anytime we see others breeze through something that's a monumental struggle for jealousy is a normal struggle. But it shouldn't be.
I have many faults - but jealousy isn't one of them. I know that's breaking a major rule of the Christian subculture, we're not supposed to say that we have a strength in a particular area, but it's true. I simply do not understand jealousy. I know it's a legitimate struggle for many - and I know I struggle with things that others resist with ease.
As I held Oliver in my arms I knew it was a complete grace to be free from the bondage of jealousy. I was free to love my friends without stumbling over myself in the process.
I use the example of jealousy not to toot my own horn, because my history shows that I certainly know how to sin and sin well. I use it because for once it wasn't all about me. For that moment, it was their story - not mine being celebrated. I didn't trip over the sin that so easily entangles. I overcame. I experienced the freedom to celebrate my two friends seven pound miracle, and it was good. It was very good.
When you taste freedom - it's intoxicating. Freedom is more than the American dream - it's God's dream. It's the very best God has in store for you. It's God's perfect will for us. And it should be a part of the normal Christian life.
Many times we're so used to being in bondage that we think slavery and futility is the norm. Like the Israelites of old, too many of us prefer the stability of our slavery to the unknown future of our freedom. We assume that how it's always been is how it's supposed to be.
We couldn't be more wrong. We were designed to yearn for freedom. Our spirits are drawn towards it, long to taste it, and won't be satisfied until we find it. Not just freedom of speech or freedom from terrorists, but a personal and internal freedom. Liberty to love the things we want to love. Support the things we want to support.
If we could only see what God has in store for us, we would walk away from our bondage in a New York minute. Actually, we wouldn't even require a full 60 seconds to drop all of the junk that ultimately robs us and cling to the things that offer real life. Hope. Joy. Love. Generosity. Mercy.
If I'd been holding onto a jealous attitude, I wouldn't have been able to fully receive the joy of the moment. I would have been partially happy and smiled the best smile I could manage - but there'd be a sadness in my heart. Dan and Sydney might never known the difference. Something tells me they would have known - not because they're so amazing, but because we all instinctively know when someone is being authentic with us.
Sin, at it's very core kills and destroys. It robs us of very things we cherish. It takes more than it promised to take, and stays longer than it promised to stay. It is quite literally, the houseguest from hell.
Imagine what life would look like if you were able to be totally free. Free to love others as they need loving. Free to forgive. Free from the chains of past hurts, transgressions, and misunderstanding.
I am convinced that is the life God has for you. For me. For the world. But it won't happen until we start to choose joy. It won't happen until we start to choose life. It won't happen until we take a leap of faith and let go of the things that are hurting and hindering us and reach out and embrace the freedom God gave us.
Someone a lot smarter than me once said, "The root of all sin is not believing that God is a good God." That quote has stuck with me for the last dozen years or so. People will ultimately choose to do the thing they believe will benefit them the most. That's human nature. When I choose bitterness over forgiveness, for example, I think I'll get something more out of bitterness than forgiveness. I never do. Neither do you.
The life of perpetual ache in our hearts is not the life of freedom that our good God promised us. It's hardly what Jesus died to offer us. My experience holding Oliver should be the norm, not the exception. Getting there is hard, but it's possible. That's what dying to self looks like. It's not that you give up something valuable in order to attain something cheap. It's letting go of a parasite and in return, gaining paradise.
Image: Salvatore lovene
Written By: Andy Vaughn
Andy Vaughn is a freelance writer that desires to encourage the masses to choose life and love in the everyday choices that shape our lives. He run a blog that's dedicated to that purpose, and has named it Prisoner of Hope, because that's his life's goal. To perpetually be captivated by the hope that comes from knowing the heart of God.