Freedom is not what I am free to do, it’s what I’m free not to do.
(I don’t know where I heard this, but whoever said it is very wise indeed. I would like to give them credit for it, so if you know who it was, please email me.)
If you even think you might have a problem with a hurt, hang up, or habit, it probably is a problem. You’ve already thought about it. Justified in your head why it is not a problem. (“It’s not that bad.” “I am not as bad as so-and-so.” “I can get control of it if I try harder.” “I did not really put my mind to it.” “If we don’t talk about it, it will go away.” “It really doesn’t hurt when he/she does that. I am fine.” “He/She just needs it to relax. It really is not a problem.”) Hey! I am not trying to make you feel bad. I am just talking from my own experience.
The first lesson in Freedom Ministry is Denial. It goes like this…
Realize I’m not God. I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable.
“Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor.” Matthew 5:3
We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.
“For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” Romans 7:18
Hi! My name is Shirley and I am a believer in Christ who struggles with the words that come out of my mouth. When my kids were younger, my frustration would lead me to yell. It was ugly. I knew it was wrong, but I could not stop when my frustration and stress level was out of control.
I read all kinds of self-help books as to how to raise kids as a single parent. They were really good books. They made sense. One thing the books all advised was not to yell. Kids stop listening when you yell. They see their parent out of control and it leads to kids being out of control. All of it makes perfect sense. The problem was I could not stop yelling. This was not an everyday activity at my house. I did not announce, “Let the yelling begin.” It was once in a while when a child did something so totally wrong that I could not believe they did it. I raised them better than that. They should have known better. Do you hear me justifying my yelling a little. That’s denial. (Teenagers are wonderful. They teach you so much about your limits.)
So, I had gone through the Freedom Ministry (using the Celebrate Recovery curriculum) for other reasons, and now I wanted to go through it again because of my yelling. It was a slow process. First I had to acknowledge that I had a problem that was unmanageable. My pride was in my way. After all, I was a Freedom Ministry facilitator. No one else really heard me yell. Just my kids. You see how pride gets in the way. But, I knew that the Lord saw everything. There was no hiding from Him. And, I knew that this behavior was damaging my relationship with my children. The first step is to get out of denial and acknowledge that you have no control over your behavior.
So, I did not will myself to stop yelling. I took the Christ-centered steps. Before I started this journey through Freedom Ministry, I would yell and not give it a second thought. I said what I had to say to that particular child and I was good. (Pride!) In Freedom Ministry you have folks praying for you and you pray for them. That was comforting. I had told them my problem and they listened and loved me anyway. Then after a while if I yelled, I truly felt bad about it. I would go back when I felt in control and apologize to my child. Apologizing to my child was not an easy thing to do, but I know it is what God required.
Then one day one of my children did something bad and I did not yell. I said, “I am disappointed in that choice you made. Why would you do that?” That was a God moment for me. That child got mad at me for not yelling because now that child had to be accountable for that action. Before that child could have yelled, stormed up to the bedroom, and slammed the door to their room. (Do you see I am being very nonspecific about gender, so you don’t know which child it is.) God had stopped me from yelling!
God is faithful. If you truly want freedom from a hurt, hang up, or habit, He will do it.
For my Lent devotional that Rebecca, our Believe Pastor, recommends, I have been reading the New Testament in the Message version. Matthew 16:24-26 says, “Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. ‘Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?’”
I tried the self-help books and got nowhere. Everytime I try the Lord’s way of doing things, it may not be easy, but it is always good. And, He is faithful.
2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is enough for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me.”