Chained Up

Back when I was in high school and was taking a psychology class, my teacher told us the story of an elephant. A cruel trainer owned this baby elephant. Every single day, this evil owner would chain this poor baby elephant to a huge tree. This tiny elephant would try with all her might to break free. She stomped and she kicked. She pushed and she pulled, but not matter how hard she tried, she was just too small and too weak to break free. So after weeks of failing to gain her freedom, she gave up and stopped trying. Fortunately, this baby got rescued by a kind and loving animal conservationist, who took care of her and allowed her to roam in freedom. The elephant grew up with her new owner but years later she found herself tied to another tree. By now, the elephant had grown big and strong enough to not only break the chains tying it to the tree, but to literally uproot the tree she was tied to. However, the elephant didn’t even attempt to break free because she remembered how she was unable to break free as a baby. Though she was capable of breaking through the chains and regaining her freedom, she was too bound by memories of past defeat to realize her own power.

Of course, this story my teacher told me, easily helped me remember and understand the concept of learned helplessness, but it also helped me see a spiritual issue that so many of us often struggle with. So many times, we’re just like that elephant. At one time, before we came to Christ and committed our lives to Him, we were much like that baby elephant. We belonged to a cruel and evil master. We were under the rule and influence of the enemy. Just like that elephant, we were far too small and weak to break free from the chains that the enemy used to keep us bound. While the chains for the elephant were physical, our chains were spiritual, emotional and mental. Chains of sin, shame, fear, depression, anxiety and hurt held us captive and we were powerless to their uncanny ability to hold us back in life. Since we’ve come to Christ, though, we’ve grown stronger and bigger in incredible ways and He has endowed us with the ability to break free from every single chain that’s had us bound. But just like that elephant, we’re sometimes so haunted by how powerless we were that we fail to realize just how powerful we are now in Christ.

So I share that story to share this message: Break free! You are not who you used to be! You are not weak! You are not helpless! You might be facing some of the same obstacles you faced before you got saved and they may have you feeling tied down like before. Just know that the Heavenly Father who, in all His lovingkindness, rescued you from your chains before has let you be chained up again, not to scare you or remind of your past weakness and failures. He’s allowed you be tied up again to show you just how big and powerful you’ve become in Him. He wants you to see the work that He’s done in you and He wants you to exercise this new strength He’s placed inside of you.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with praying and seeking Him when you feel weak and helpless. But if you’ve prayed in hopes that the Father would come and break you free from what’s holding you back, and you seem to be getting no reply, it’s possibly because He’s trying to show you that He doesn’t need to rescue you. He’s fed you His strength through His Word and nurtured you with His love up until now so you could grow to the point to break through the chains yourself. He already answered the prayers that you’re praying now, in advance, because He’s been prepping you and building you up so you could break free since the day He rescued you. He wants you to see that the strength that He gives is the most powerful force imaginable. It’s stronger than your old addictions, bad habits, sins, or problems. He wants you to know for yourself that the strength that He gives you is so mighty it can overcome all the things that used to overcome you. Sure, He could jump in and rescue you again, but this time He wants you to walk confidently in the new strength He’s given you and break those chains off yourself. You’re already free because you belong to Him now. All you have to do is walk boldly and beautifully in the power and strength that He’s endowed you with.

The story of the elephant that my psych teacher told me ended with her not realizing that she could break free when she wanted to. However, our story doesn’t have to end the same way. Right now, you may feel like that elephant, bound by the chains you couldn’t shake off before you came to Christ. You may not have been able to shake those chains off before, but you can certainly shake them off now. You are more than a conqueror and you most certainly can do any and everything through Christ who strengthens you! Walk confidently in the new strength you’ve been given through your relationship with Christ and know that your chains will be broken the moment you realize you can break free.

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Throwback Thursday: One Thing Changes Everything

 

(I wrote this in 2011 and posted it on Facebook.)

*Note: Sorry if I’m all over the place, but it’s finals week and you know how that goes*

About a year ago, a man, who I’d never seen before, came up to me after my PaPa’s funeral. I’d spoken at the service so people were coming up to me left and right telling me that I’d done a good job and was such strong person. All of those faces and the words they said all blurred together. All of them, except this one man. He came up to me and told me that he could tell how close I was to my granddad and that he had been very close to his too. Then he said something that will probably stick with me forever, “My granddad died in 1976 and there has never been a day that I haven’t thought about him. Just know that you’ll never go a day without thinking about him because the love you have for him will never let you forget him. It’s not always going to be painful and sad, but trust me you’re going to think about him every day for the rest of your life.”

Something about his words jolted me back into the reality that my tears and sadness had been keeping me from. Even after he walked away, I kept replaying the words he’d just said over and over in my mind. They were so comforting yet they scared me. Comforting, in the sense that his words reassured me that I wasn’t alone in my pain-everyone that loses someone feels this way. But every day is what scared me. I just couldn’t fathom the idea of someone no longer in your life sliding into you consciousness every single day. I thought to myself “I mean I’m bound to get a break. I’m sure I’ll go a couple of days or weeks and not think of him because after all life moves on.”

But then I quickly changed my mind because he spoke with a sense of confidence that only a person who knew an eternal truth could speak. You know, like the sky is blue, the sun rises and sets without fail, and now I could add never going a day with out thinking about my PaPa to that list. I almost didn’t want to believe him, but something in me told me that he was right.

And now as I stand here a little over a year later, I know he was right. There has yet to be a day when I haven’t thought about the man that raised me. Sometimes the thoughts of him leave me with a smile on my face or pure joy in my heart, but more times then I’d like to admit, it leaves me with a tear-stained face and deep sorrow in my heart. Now life does move on. I’ve had more than my fair share of problems since then-family issues, my house burning down, a tornado hitting my hometown, and dealing with the usual heartbreaks and disappointments that come with friendships and relationships. The funny thing is that all those things still pale in comparison to losing him. None of those things has changed my life more than losing him. Nothing. I’ve noticed that I want to practice law one day because of losing him. I’ve noticed that I cling tighter, and sometimes too tight, to the ones I care about because of losing him. I’ve noticed that I’ve learned to love others, even my enemies, with more fervor because of losing him. I’ve noticed that I’ve grown to have a deeper relationship with God because of losing him.

So I guess I said all of that to say this, one thing can change everything and make a new rule for your reality. One thing can change for you and transform you for the rest of your life. Just as the sky is blue and the sun rises and sets without fail, you can lose someone you love and never go a day without thinking about them. It’s simply another eternal truth of your reality. You can choose to wallow in that and wish that things could return to the way that they once were, or you can accept your new reality and build your life within it. As you can guess, I choose to go with the latter, and I’ve found a peculiar beauty in that choice. Even when the worst possible thing occurs and changes your reality, there’s still a quiet hope that awaits you. There’s still the little reminders from God that let you know that His love, peace, and blessings are the ultimate eternal truth and exist no matter what reality you find yourself facing. Yes,there will be tears and there will be changes, but God’s eternal truth of His endless love will always bring you through. Yes the sky is blue, the sun rises and sets without fail, and you never go a day without thinking about losing someone you love. But you can add God’s comforting and endless love to that list of eternal truths too.