When I started writing the final part of this series on the power to say no, I knew where to take it. While listening to a sermon last week, the pastor said something that immediately grabbed my attention. It was about being enslaved to your way out of something. It was such a powerful thought because it was the perfect way to describe the remainder of this post. It’s about a man who became a slave to his way out.
This man who was bound many times over, at various times of his life. As a young child, all the way to a young adult, he felt the continuous influence of peer pressure. He struggled to free himself from it, but it arrested his mind. He gave in to one temptation after another. After he was bullied, he, in turn, bullied others. He sat back while others taunted those who were different from themselves. In his own ignorance, he too would join in on making fun of them behind their backs. His young mind also became filled with a flood of images when it was introduced to pornography. Eventually the pressure of smoking came into his life. His friends did it, so he did not want to stand out from the crowd and joined in.
After high school, he started working full time and felt the pressure to perform at his job. Bills demanded payments and it became adult life from that point on. After working hard for a year, it was hard to make ends meet and a decision was made to go to school again. New pressure came, that of drinking alcohol. It was what everyone did, and he found himself wrapped up in it too. After school was finished, it was back to work again. Relationships formed along the way and shattered, giving rise to a new temptation, self-destruction. Depression sunk its teeth in like a dog that refused to let go of a toy.
One day the news came to him that his brother died. It sent his world spiraling downward, into hatred, anger, bitterness, and depression. The music he listened to only further spread the flames of wrath in his heart. He developed a motto to live by. #@$% the world. He abandoned what faith he had. Up to this point in life, countless hours were spent burying himself in a culmination of ways of escape. Loud, angry music fueled his rage, seemingly satisfying his soul yet leaving him empty and shallow. Life became numb. In this place it would seem there was no pain, for it was cleverly hidden. But at the same time, there was no joy; only the promise that happiness was not possible for someone like him. He escaped to movies and games that distracted his mind from dealing with matters in the present. He threw himself into his work because it was easier to deal with it than the pain he felt in life. Every cigarette, every drink – carried the promise of relief. The consumption of food usually led to over-indulgence, promising the next bite would make things better. Had one of his best friends not died because of drugs, he likely would have turned to them also. Anything to escape the pain, the emptiness, the hollowness of an unfulfilled, meaningless life.
Had he only known deep in his heart that he was running. Running from the love that had been chasing him all along. The love he ignored. The love that found him in despair. The love that wasn’t satisfied to leave him there. This love looked at his chains that kept him bound. Chains that kept him locked away in a prison, a slave to his way out. Love asked him, “Do you want to be free from these chains?”
Not knowing exactly who, what, where, when, or why, the man reached out to this love. He asked love for a better way. Love showed him that regardless of one’s skin color, sex, or race – each person is loved unconditionally. They are an immensely valued treasure, priceless not because of lack of value but because it exceeds explainable value. Love showed him that women were not meant to be sex trophies, sought after merely to be exploited for personal pleasure. They have immeasurable, undefinable, intrinsic value that society vainly overlooks. Love showed him there was no need to wait for the next smoke break or the next drink to find relief. This love doesn’t cause lung cancer. This love doesn’t destroy the liver. This love doesn’t take over and destroy life itself.
It wasn’t all at once. But along the way, the man looked at love, who stood before him holding all these chains in his hands. There the man stood, free from all his ways of escape. Excited, the man went and got his own chain. He ran back to love, the one who set him free, and found himself on his knees before this love. He took the chains and bound himself once more, this time to love. Bound to truth and freedom. Once dead and lost, now alive and found. Old things are passed away and all things are made new. Any number of people may try to convince the man he is wrong and foolish for his beliefs. But all he must do, is grab his new chain and follow it back to the love that rescued him.
Today, as that man, I sit typing these words. I am a slave to this love – Jesus Christ. We certainly have a part to do when it comes to the power of saying no. But when we are overwhelmed and confused with life, God will offer us a way of escape. In these times, it is not our own strength that carries us, but His. He has freely given us his Spirit to guide and direct our walks in life. God has delivered me from every addiction and continues to deliver me each day. I am no longer a slave to sin but a free man. This type of life is out there for every single person. If there is anything, I can do to help you find this life for yourself, please reach out to me. I will be glad to pray with you and for you. Please read 1 John 4:7-11. Find relief. Find freedom. Find love. More than anything else, find Jesus Christ today.