Galatians 5:1 "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery."
Since the first get-to-know-you D-group night when Alexandra, Victoria, and I purposed to study the topic of grace together in order to battle our shared yoke of negative and guilty thinking, reminders of God's grace have FILLED every day- quite literally. During every morning study (regardless of the initial topic), in every sermon I've listened to, every song I've sung, every meaningful conversation with fellow disciple or non-believer, and even in every meditation I consider worthy enough to remember, grace has emerged as the true topic of inquiry- the explanation and motivation of everything I do, desire to do, and am called to do as a disciple, both the beginning foundation and the furthermost extent of who I am called to BE as God's daughter. I'm amazed. Though I've essentially learned nothing new- Jesus sacrificed his life for mine, cancelling the debt that I could never repay - I feel like I have discovered an expanse, a treasure trove of evidence for God's work in my life personally, in the lives of those around me, and in the world at large. Now, after eight years of committing my life to Jesus as best as I know how, I am beginning to grasp more deeply the excitement and the gratitude of the man and the merchant who discovered the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price and sold all they had to keep them (Matt 13:44-45). Never before has God's love appeared to me in such vivid color, and I hope that as time passes and we leave this period of fasting, my vision does not get cloudy and return to its former perspective, to which I have been a slave for most of my life.
I admire Paul's unabashed boldness in correcting the Galatians, and I am grateful for his example, because I believe that without this particular book, we might tend to forget how seriously our dependence upon works offends God. In previous reads I have thought, "Why are you so hung up on circumcision, Galatians? You don't have to do that anymore because the regulations of the Law were nailed to the cross. Why keep putting yourselves through the pain?" Yet, I now realize I quite often deserve the same rebuke. I have had, and the race of men has a love affair with work. (One of our favorite TV shows is The Office, for crying out loud!) No wonder God established the Sabbath. Stop working, people! Take a break to remember who gave you all you have. Remind yourselves that your blessings have not come from your own hands and that they never will. Christianity is so UNnatural. Everything I can think of promotes the system of work and merit except for Christ's covenant of grace. America is built on the tenet of allowing all the opportunity to rise from rags to riches; "If you work hard, you can achieve anything you want." Thus our value to society increases the more we able to DO. The more we multi-task, the more efficient we are; the more things we accomplish in a day, the more things we check off our daily grind list the better, more successful people we are in the world. What dangerous thinking that bleeds its poison into our spirituality! The more people we reach out to, the more people we study the Bible with, the more religious activities we attend, the more services we provide the more spiritually successful we are. More valuable to the church. More loved by God. More effective. But not more joyful. Not more grateful. Not more intimately connected to God. In truth, the more we do when not acting through the compelling force of love (2 Cor. 5:14), the more frantic and self-reliant and prideful and frustrated and mentally, physically, emotionally EXHAUSTED we become. Especially us women. "Martha, Martha. You are worried and upset by many things but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen what is best, and it will not be taken away from her." I refuse to one day be an older woman- habitual in devotion to religious activity, methodical, committed, lacking the inner life of the Spirit's power and the joy of deep gratitude, tired. Useless. How ironic that in seeking to satisfy ourselves our deep-rooted desire of being effective we achieve the opposite effect and destroy ourselves! Praise be to God, that if the Galatians could learn their lesson and reconnect with the freedom Christ died to give them, we can, too.
The three of us read Gal. 5:1 as a theme verse and began brainstorming names to call ourselves. We still haven't found one, but we did enjoy looking up the word for "freedom" in various languages. "Freiheit!" (German) delivered the biggest thrill, judging by how many times we repeated it with different vocal fluctuations and accents. Amidst the ensuing hilarity however, I began to realize we were participating in a cry embedded in man since the fall that has rung in the ears of our God through every era and situation. It is a cry to which he has not turned and never will turn a deaf ear. Therefore I will pray along with all those of the past, "Free us from guilt. Free us from Satan's lies that we must earn for ourselves what can only be given by You. Free us from the perspective that fails to acknowledge the far reaches of your love in the darkest places of our hearts. Free us from sin. Free us from the powers of death."