CHOICES {PART 1}: Freedom to Choose

CHOICES {PART 1}: Freedom to Choose

“Make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”—Romans 14:13 NIV

There’s a saying floating around the internet, I’m not sure where it originated but it speaks truth in volumes for so few words, it goes something like:

“We have the freedom to choose, but not the freedom to choose the consequences of those choices.”

Growing up I wasn’t allowed to make many choices, it was just a matter of doing what my parents told me to do because either “The Bible says so” or “I’m your parent and I say so”. Neither of those answers pleased me much, nevertheless, I complied. I was afraid of the consequences of not complying. I was afraid of the belt, afraid of my parent’s disapproval. So, out of fear (not freedom) I obeyed. However, once I turned sixteen, I began to realize my parents had less control over my choices, and I could get away with a lot of things without them knowing (I had my own job and car, and with that came some added “freedoms”). Of course, as a sixteen year old with raging hormones, not many, if any, of my choices were well thought out.

It didn’t take more than a few “bad” choices before I became overwhelmed with shame, a real “failure” as a Christian. No longer was I the compliant, obedient “good girl”, but the rebellious, self-centered “prodigal”. Instead of repentance, my shame led me farther into the pit of stupidity, until nearly a decade later when I found myself pregnant, living in a shack of a home (no running water, windows broken out, roof falling apart…etc.) with my boyfriend. When sharing my testimony I often start with this scene because that is what God used to catapult a major life change in me.

Did I want my daughter to grow up with an eating disorder? Did I want her having sex with whomever she pleased on any given day? Did I want her contracting STDs? Did I want her growing up so insecure she felt the only answer was to take a blade and cut her body? Did I want her to decide one day that suicide was the only reasonable choice? Did I want her to turn to drugs to ease her pain? Did I want her turning out like me? Did I want her spending an eternity separated from God because I never taught her the truth about Him? The answer to those questions was a resounding, NO!

I knew if there was any hope for my daughter, I was in fact the one who needed to change. I knew she would follow my example, and that is the last thing I wanted. So, over the years following, God changed my heart one issue at a time. However, despite having a change of heart and re-committing my life to following God, I still continued to make dumb choices (and still do). Some of these choices have had catastrophic consequences (more on that will be discussed in later posts). It really is a miracle that, despite my ignorance, my husband is now a Christian, and our marriage is stronger than it’s ever been. It very easily could have ended much differently.

One of the things I struggle with is an eating disorder (began 16 years ago) and intense insecurity. Understanding who I am in Christ has gone a long way in helping with those issues, nevertheless, I still struggle. One of the things that triggers anxiety and temptation to revert back to the eating disorder is wearing revealing or tight clothes. The insecurity is so intense, that despite living in Arizona where the summers often reach 120 degrees, I wear pants all the time (unless I am swimming, which I will only do in the presence of good, trusted friends, and even then, I wear shorts). I usually wear baggy t-shirts as well. I hate the feeling of clothes on my skin. (It’s hard to explain or understand unless you’ve had an eating disorder).

I’ve prayed about this issue repeatedly, as it gets to be quite tiresome dealing with such emotions and anxiety (even something as simple as eating a meal can turn into an emotional ordeal if I let my focus shift from the truth of God’s word). The Holy Spirit produced and answer that, after careful contemplation (asking the questions near the end of this post), I decided to implement. Dress differently. Novel concept, I know. For me, that meant wearing long, modest skirts instead of jeans, shorts, or pants.

Now, some of you may be thinking, “Great, another ultra conservative nut-job who thinks it’s a sin to wear pants”. Actually, no, that is not the case. I don’t believe God is too concerned with what we are wearing, other than it needs to be modest (not causing a “brother” to stumble). Pants, shorts, whatever, I don’t really care what you wear, that’s between you and God. But for me, the long skirts are a personal conviction that has nothing to do with whether or not is a “sin” for a female to wear pants. So please, no comments about that. (And no, I am not forcing my daughter to wear skirts. I explained why I was chose to do so, and told her she could decide for herself what she wanted to do. My only requirement for her clothing is that it be modest.)

When it comes to making choices, from the clothing we wear, the food we eat, or the type of activities we engage in, we must recognize our freedom to choose while also understanding we do not have the freedom to choose the consequences of those choices.

“’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything.”—1 Corinthians 6:12 NIV

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love…For I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”—Galatians 5:13, 16

In a nutshell, we all have free will. God gives us His word to protect us, but it is our choice whether or not to read it and follow it. For many years I chose to ignore it, and for the rest of my life I will have to experience the consequences of my “free will”. I can’t undo the consequences, some of which have deeply affected my family. Our consequences will affect others, either positively or negatively. These days I am erring on the side of caution. For some this may come across as being too “uptight”. But, I know that I am making these choices because of my freedom, not to obtain freedom or acceptance from God or others.

Will we use our freedom to choose to encourage others, help others, love others, and serve others, or will we use it to serve and please ourselves? Coming back to the example of clothing, by choosing to dress modestly, I am accomplishing a few things: first and foremost I am no longer dealing with the anxieties and temptations I dealt with wearing other types of clothing. I am more comfortable and more relaxed. As an added bonus, I am protecting others from “stumbling” by doing my best in covering what needs to be covered and leaving everything to the imagination (as opposed to leaving nothing to the imagination, as it seems the majority of women, even Christians, are doing these days). My body is for my husband, not for anyone else. But again, this is a personal conviction, not a “rule” for everyone to follow. I have peace knowing I am doing all that I can to protect myself from temptation and others as well. I am also setting a good example for my daughter, showing her that she is more than a pretty face or a good body; she should be noticed and appreciated for her character, not her appearance.

While this is just one example, the principles that led to this choice apply to any choice we can make. My dad used to tell me, “When in doubt, do without”. That little phrase has come in handy, especially now that I am committed to following God’s plan for my life. From major choices to seemingly insignificant ones, we can be assured of making the right choice if we:

1) Seek God’s word on the issue first and commit to following his Word (after all, He wants to protect us from the consequences of bad choices, which is why He gave us His word!)
2) Pray about what God would have us do (if this is not already made clear in his word)
3) Ask and answer honestly a few questions about the choice:

●Will it hurt me or anyone else?
●Is there any possibility this choice could be a “stumbling block” to someone else?
●Does this choice encourage me and those around me to think on what is good, lovely, pure, and acceptable (Phil. 4:8)?
●Do I have peace about this choice?
●Am I shining God’s light, love, and truth to the world through this choice?
●Am I making a choice I would want my child (or loved one) to make?

If you have any doubts about your decision, “do without”. In other words, say “no” and trust God has something better in mind for you. Pray for patience and wisdom to make the right choices, the ones that will reap consequences of joy, not sorrow.

 

 

**NOTE: This was not intended to be a post about modesty or clothing; that is simply a recent example from my life I chose to use as an illustration. Please do not feel the need to defend your choice of clothing to me. Truthfully, I don’t care what you choose to wear or do. It really is between you and God. My choice is a personal one, and that’s the extent of it. I am merely sharing my journey and experience as I stumble through life attempting to walk in grace the best I know how.**

 

__________________________________________________________
I will be continuing this series on choices in much greater detail, if you haven’t already, please enter your email under the “Follow” tab to receive new posts in your inbox. No spam! Just new posts, (usually two to four posts a month at most). If you found this website to be of encouragement to you, please share it with your friends!

Advertisements

Freedom is Here

clean

Yesterday was a big day in my life; I would venture to say it was a life-changing experience, second only to my conversion. You should see my face today, I cried so much my eyes are swollen. I don’t even have the energy to put make-up on. Spiritual warfare is exhausting.

Two days after my last bout of major depression my Sunday Class teacher emailed me (completely unaware of my struggles-nice work, God) and invited me to partake in an afternoon of fighting for my spiritual freedom. That certainly sounded like something I needed. I agreed and we set a date, April 29th.

It was 1:00pm before I made it into the modular room where my teacher Steve, sponsor Kimmy, and another prayer warrior, Terry, awaited my arrival. Steve and I worked through the 7 Steps to Freedom in Christ (Neil T. Anderson) while Terry and Kimmy prayed for me…for 4 hours.

“‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord, ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.'” Isaiah 1:18

I went in with mild expectations of what would happen, but I emerged a changed woman. I discovered fighting for my freedom was hard, painful, and exhausting. Throughout this ordeal I uncovered bitterness I was unaware of, strongholds that had been weighing me down, and serious repentance of issues I had never regarded as sin. What happened was extremely personal, and for the first time in my life I was 100% honest. I heard my own voice declare sins, repent, renounce, and claim freedom in Christ. Verbal reinforcement is powerful.

There I stood in the presence of God, uncovered and completely exposed. I had to make a choice.

All of my years of bulimia, addiction, rebellion, self-mutilation, and controlling had only served as a means of self punishment. I was giving myself what I thought I deserved. In order to walk in Freedom, I had to choose to forgive myself and renounce my sin. Steve insisted, “You don’t just ‘try’ to forgive, you must choose to forgive yourself.” Whew, it was powerful and it took me several minutes to work through.

“As far as the east is from west, so far has God removed our transgression from us.” Psalm 103:12

There was a lot more to this than forgiveness. Specific issues had to be recalled (which was not fun), and their sinful patterns renounced. It was basically 4 hours of repentance. During this time the battle raged on in my head (the enemy at work), I would read a statement like, “I am innocent” and would hear, “You will never be innocent!” I had to renounce the enemy repeatedly in every area of my life. I’m telling you, folks, the war against the spirit is serious. Satan does not want my freedom, but guess what? He has no power here anymore.

“So take everything the Master has set out for you, well made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way…This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the devil and all his angels.” Ephesians 6:10-12 msg

I left that meeting not just feeling like I was lighter, but knowing I was set free. Once and for all, it was over. The decades of depression, the eating disorder, the sins of my haunting past; it was over. I was no longer defined by my past. I am not a failure, disappointment, or a worthless whore. I was clean, I was whole. I had prayed for years to be made whole, I had begged and pleaded for healing and often wondered if God had turned his back on me. But yesterday, April 29th, I was set free once and for all. Spiritually and emotionally made whole. I walked out of that room whiter than snow. Finally, what I knew in the Word connected with my own experience.

The battle is not over, the war wages on. Is the enemy done with me? I doubt it. He is forever seeking to destroy my faith. What is different? I am equppied now to fight the battle with truth that sets me free. I know what to look for, I know how the enemy develops strongholds, and I know how to stop it. I can say with all authority under heaven, in the name of Christ Jesus, I have been healed and made whole. I am free.

(Neil T. Anderson has authored many books on spiritual freedom including, Victory Over Darkness, The Bondage Breaker, Overcoming Depression, and the manual I went through, The Steps to Freedom in Christ)

*In the coming posts I will list specific prayers from the 7 Steps to Freedom.