I spoke at a women’s retreat today. It is a group of amazing women who are changing their lives by improving their health. Several of them requested a copy of what I shared…so here you go girls! Go and walk in your FREEDOM!
When I asked the Lord what word he wanted me to bring today…I got the word shackled. Really, Lord? I thought it was an interesting word choice for a freedom conference. I was hoping for an inspiring word like victor, or conqueror, or warrior. Instead, I got shackled. After my initial whining to the Lord, which was met with silence from him, I decided to do some research.
Shackle- (noun) a pair of fetters connected together by a chain, used to fasten a prisoner’s wrists or ankles together.
I pictured a criminal walking into a courtroom in an orange jumpsuit. Shackles on wrists and ankles. Doing the little shuffle step. Head down. Hands tied in front. This person is going before the judge to be sentenced. The shackles jingle with each step forward. A reminder of sins committed. Standing before the judge knowing the proper plea is guilty. The person looks up at the judge and sees her own face staring back. Angry, disgusted eyes stare and bang the gavel, shouting guilty!! The sentence is life in prison…in shackles.
This is how we see ourselves, isn’t it? We deserve the punishment for our overindulgence. We are guilty of lacking self-restraint and we bow our heads in shame. We pronounce our life sentence and declare it over ourselves in anger and disgust. We cannot control our appetites for pleasure and therefore we deserve to be punished. This is the opposite of Freedom.
Then there is the verb…Shackle- to restrain or limit.
Synonyms-restrict, constrain, handicap, hamper, hinder, impede, obstruct, inhibit
Being shackled for life, means we cannot move in ways we used to. We cannot take big steps of faith. We cannot reach out for our dreams. We cannot walk the path Jesus set before us, because we are limited by our weight, and our view from the prison cell we have put ourselves in. We are angry and defeated. We have resigned ourselves to be watchers instead of doers. Life passes us by because we are hampered. God calls us out and we look at our shackles and say no, I can’t. I can’t go. I can’t be on a stage. I can’t direct. I can’t lead. I just can’t. We say to anyone who dares to ask us, ‘Don’t you see my shackles. They are obvious. Don’t ask me.” The problem with that is usually God is the one asking. We are paralyzed to move. Our chains bind us from obedience. Yet, God goes before the judge as our defense. He is not an excuse maker, but a true defender. He uses his words to try to convince the judge, with our very own face, of who we truly are. Daughters created in God’s image. Worthy. Valuable. Beautiful. Pure. The judge plugs her ears, not wanting to hear. But this defense attorney is not giving up, no matter how many falls off the wagon we have. No matter how tight we make our chains.
The scene changes. (close your eyes to picture this)
Jesus is standing beside the prisoner, and they are no longer in a courtroom. They are standing in front of a closet. Jesus asks to go inside. The prisoner says no.
Jesus gently says, “If you want to get rid of your shackles we have to go inside.” The prisoner ducks her head in shame, as she opens the door. Jesus turns on the light and begins to examine the clothes. He passes by the items in the front of the closet. Instead he goes to the dark corners in the back. He pulls a large jacket off the hanger.
“What is this for?” He asks.
The prisoner answers, “That is my favorite coat.”
“But what is it for?”
“To cover me.”
“But it is too big for you.”
“I like oversized jackets.”
“Precious one, you are using this to cover your shame. It is not becoming on you. It hides who I have created you to be.”
“These clothes are my fat clothes, for when I am big.”
“They do not fit you. You are carrying that which you were not meant to carry. The load is too heavy for you. These clothes represent your insecurities. You hang onto them like a child holds onto a blanket…just in case. Just in case you need to hide yourself. Just in case you need to disappear. I do not want you to be invisible. You need to be seen. Please let me take your shame away. Please give me the burden of guilt you carry. It will break your shackles. Can I take these clothes from you, beloved?”
“Yes. Please take them away,” the prisoner said slowly.
Jesus makes a pile of fat clothes on the floor before he moves to the next section of the closet. He removes a shirt that is covered in stains.
“Why do you have this shirt? It is covered in stains.”
“I can’t get them out. I have tried everything. I can’t just throw everything away that has a stain. It would be a waste. All the clothes in this section have some stains on them.”
“My love, these clothes mark you. They show mistakes made in your past. Drips and splashes that have become a part of your fabric. They are soaked in. When you wear these clothes, it is a reminder to you of your past, and every time you see the stain it floods your mind with things you need not remember. If I don’t remember, why should you? They do not represent who you are to me. I can take the stains away. Do not hold onto these clothes anymore. Another link in the chain will break if you let me take your stains away.”
“Okay. You can have them,” said the prisoner feeling a bit lighter.
Jesus used his scarred hands to take each article of clothing that was stained and drop it to the floor. He moved back further. And pulled some pants that were ripped out of the closet.
“Why do you keep these? Don’t tell me because they are in style, because there is another reason. A deeper reason.”
“What? They are in style.”
“They are…but what about the others here. There are many torn garments, of all shapes.”
“I keep them because they can be repaired and fixed and used.”
“That is not the reason you keep them. My child, you feel you don’t deserve better. You feel if you wear torn clothes it is because you have never measured up. When you were broken and torn, you came out with scars. These clothes remind you of your scars. They are broken as you are. Some of the wounds never fully healed and now there are gaping holes. Holes that show your hardest moments. The times when others ripped you, the times when you felt crushed by life’s weight. Do not keep these garments precious one. Let me take them from you. Let me remove the holes left behind.”
“Please take them away.” The prisoner wept.
“What about these things?” Jesus said as he removed an old letter jacket, a mini skirt, gym shorts, and some other out of date items.
“Those contain memories.”
“No, they contain identities. They are ways you identified yourself in earlier years. They are no longer appropriate. They are too small for what I have for you. Your identity is in me now, and these items cannot contain what I have for you. They do not fit anymore. You are a new creature whom I have poured into. Please let me remove your shackles by taking the old pictures of yourself away. It is no longer who you are.”
“Go ahead and take them.”
“While we are at it, please give me your orange jumpsuit. You put this prisoner identity upon yourself as the judge. I have just taken your shame, your insecurities, your brokenness, your stains, your past, and your false identities. Your chains are broken. You are unshackled. Please give me the jumpsuit.”
The prisoner removed the orange garment and stood exposed before Jesus. All the doubts and fears fled. There were no garments left in the closet. All of them had been put into the pile on the floor. Jesus removed his outer garment. His white robe. And he put it onto the prisoner.
“This is what I have for you to wear…a pure garment, made of white. It is my robe of righteousness, and it belongs to you. It highlights who I made you to be. It is just the right size and shape. It brings out the sparkle in your eyes and the color in your cheeks. I have set you free…so you are free indeed.”
“Freedom looks good on you! Go, my unshackled one. Go and take wide steps. Reach far for what I have given you. You are free to move in my plans and purposes. You are no longer a prisoner. Move forward. Watch what I will do for you. Keep your head up. Do not hide in the shadows. Do not be hindered, or hampered, or inhibited to do what I have called you to. I will bring you to the place I have for you…but you have to be the one to step out. It will feel scary at first, but then the exhilaration will take over and you will find yourself in places you never dreamed of. You will be radiant because you are FREE. Free from all the old. Lifted up by the new. Energized by my call on your life. Hope will fill your lungs like you have never known.”
Then Jesus turned, took all the clothes piled on the floor in his arms. He walked away from the closet and closed the door behind. The clothes were burned, and he buried the ashes.
“Beauty for ashes… quite a trade don’t you think, beloved? Go and walk in your Freedom.”