The Oxford Dictionary defines a stronghold as “a place that has been fortified so as to protect it against attack.” In The Lord of the Rings, it looks like Helm’s Deep. In my life, it looks like social anxiety.
Yup. Strongholds can be personal—shadow castles we’ve built and defended against the King who sets His face toward our freedom.
I’ve spilled the beans about my hangup with community: every social situation feels like walking into a war zone of judgment. Much of this could be projections rather than reality (though ministry life is called a fishbowl for a reason). My brilliant solution thus far: run away and hide. Super mature, right?
“We all go up on the mountain and turn into wilder versions of ourselves. It’s why we go: to be unleashed from everything that has a hold on us.”
I’m knee-deep in one of the busiest seasons I’ve ever known. Deadlines, responsibilities, new chances to minister love to the neglected. While the load is sweet and necessary, it creates an awareness in me of my ache for Jesus. Specifically, my need to be alone with Him and cared for by Him. I feel a pull to the mountain.
Have you ever felt bored during church worship? People are yawning, Granny’s in the back sleeping, friends are texting on their cell phones. No wonder non-Christians see this as lame: it is lame, forcing ourselves to sit through it because it’s what we should do. It’s what makes God happy, right? No. He’s probably drooling at the same time we are when we “worship” this way.
God has been teaching me a lot about liberty as I’ve digested Beth Moore’s revamped Breaking Free study. She says, “I once believed only the spiritually lost were captives. God pried open my comfortably closed mind from the inside out . . . If anyone told me Christians could be in bondage, I’d have argued with all the volume a person can muster with a yoke of slavery strangling her. I was the worst kind of captive, a prisoner unaware.”
My journey through this topic has revealed a few startling truths and come incredibly close to home (sometimes literally).
You groan: it’s way too early to be awake, and it feels like someone is sitting on your chest. Or you walk into work and avoid eye contact because, all things considered, you just can’t muster the emotional energy to do more than keep your head above water lately. Slumped shoulders. Shallow breaths. Constricted vision (maybe physically, but definitely spiritually). Foggy feelings of “something’s not right.” Defeat follows you like a slug’s shiny trail, and has someone dangled weights from a rope around your neck?! The more you consider, the more you panic.
Most people collect things. I gather inspiring quotes and spread them around my space to wave hello as old friends do when I’m bored. Or tired. Or sad. Or just 100% done. One such companion, originally included in a play by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, is “The pen is mightier than the sword.” As a particularly uncoordinated being, I adore the fact that the power wielded through my mind can be just as potent as—if not more so than—the power wielded by my physical prowess. You should like this fact, too, because the thought of me slinging a sword around is so far from graceful. (If I ever took up fencing, I would entitle that period of my life “99 trips to the E.R.”)
She waited in the great hall, standing at the precipice between yesterday and tomorrow, savoring the glorious in-between. Joy-filled voices floated just past her from the feasting room beyond, anticipation buzzing bright. The young bride mused contentedly at the crown in her hands. The graceful circlet of gold had not always borne such a royal shape—nor had she, for that matter. Her thoughts meandered back through the years to the day He had found her in the slums.
This talk about freedom has been interesting, sure, but what now? What if I’ve done business with Jesus (or rather the other way around) and have gotten a pretty good grasp on what it means to be free spiritually, emotionally, financially, intellectually, and creatively? What if I’m living out of a place of liberty in every way possible?
Of all the aspects of freedom, this is the one I have personally latched onto the most as I’ve entered adulthood. It might be tempting for you to write off this post if you don’t see yourself as particularly artistic. Please don’t. There is something incredible the Lord would like to show you: you are art, and you make art. Scripture calls you God’s masterpiece, and we are made in the image of our Creator—the Creator. As such, we create. For you, it may not be detailed paintings or divine music. It might be the best sandwiches on the block. The brightest smile at your next customer. A glimpse of Christ dazzling through a note of encouragement.
Anyone familiar with our culture understands the fact that we have a massive amount of information at our fingertips—but is that access necessarily a good thing? It’s often the case that abundance leads to apathy. In a very real sense, the inundation of data has numbed our thought processes and desire for depth. For believers in a skeptical arena, though, it is more crucial than ever to portray a Jesus who is sound, well-thought-out, and competent by the way we live.