The Unexpected Gift

o-FLYING-EAGLE-570““In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.” (Psalm 118:5)

I was driving to a worship service last Sunday when an eagle swooped down from the sky and glided effortlessly past my car. My spirit immediately responded to this sight, an internal jump of joy – and I started thinking about what an eagle represents for me – freedom, courage, God’s protection, keen eyesight.

Some of us seem to pursue God from an early age and never stray far from that path. Others find that the path to God begins with the need for healing – emotional, physical or spiritual. That’s how my journey really began – pursuing God’s healing touch (probably the obvious thing for me to pursue based on my history)  – and it has brought me to this amazing place where I am starting to revel in the joy of godly freedom. “The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

For many years, I think I had a limited vision of what freedom in Christ means. Of course, the obvious expectation is that “chains” would be broken off my spirit, mind and body – He would cast away the lies that told me I couldn’t expect total healing, that God is distant and stern, that His goodness is really for other people, not for me, and that my prayers aren’t heard.

It wasn’t as if I thought these things all the time, but they were buried in my spirit somewhere, and I would find myself stumbling over them as I struggled to pray and believe in a good God who wants the very best for me, not a God who gives me rules to follow and tests to pass. I wanted to believe in a God who loves me so much, who desires intimacy with me, who wants “relationship” in the supernatural that mirrors what relationship is about in the “natural” (i.e. here on earth) – heart-to-heart conversation, guidance, comfort, joyous time together – a father or friend who wants the best for me.

But now I am getting a bigger picture of what freedom in Christ means. It’s not just breaking off chains. It’s a sense that godly freedom is tied in with the sheer pleasure of discovering a personal “promised land” that the Lord has led me to after years of captivity, years of being in bondage to lies and victim behavior. Like a parent who watches a child experience the joy of searching for and then discovering where the Easter eggs are hidden, God my Father loves watching me discover who He is, what His nature is, the good things He has prepared for me to walk in (Ephesians 2:10), and what it means to have Christ in me, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

And I, as His child, feel His loving gaze and delight as I discover those spiritual “Easter eggs”: the promises I can claim as a result of Jesus’ death on the cross – the veil is torn and resurrection power is waiting for me (Philippians 3:10).

When I started my journey, I would tell people I wanted to be healed of the effects of sexual abuse and rape, and since counseling hadn’t worked, I was turning to God. Looking back, I can see the signposts that have led me to His “promised land” – scripture verses “heavy” with God’s promises for my life and that seemed to jump off the page as I read them. They spoke His truth into my identity or into the particular situation I was praying about at the time. When it became clear that I believed the trauma in my life had robbed me of joy and hope, I came across this: “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25). When I realized I felt powerless, I discovered this scripture: “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:1). Then, as I recognized my beliefs about truly being a much-loved daughter of God, I found this: “The Lord your God will rejoice over you with gladness, he will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).  Now in the last year I have discovered and experienced a freedom that I have not felt before – and wasn’t intentionally pursuing! It’s as if I turned a corner, and the landscape of freedom was spread out before me. “Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see – how good God is. Blessed are you who run to Him.” (Psalm 34:8, The Message)

Pope John Paul II said “freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” I think he has touched on a truth about personal freedom that could be easy to miss – the main goal of freedom isn’t to do what we like, but to have the right to do what the Holy Spirit, who is love, inspires us to do.  “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:13, RSVCE)

Last weekend I went to Mass, where I experienced the life-giving power of the Eucharist, and then went to an ecumenical worship service, where I experienced the life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit as praise brought me into heavenly courts (Psalm 100:4).

So when that eagle swooped in front of my car, I recognized the power and joy of eagle-like freedom that I am experiencing now. I love being Catholic, I love going to praise services at different churches. I love God and want to pursue Him with all my heart, wherever He is. I know the Son has set me free, and I am free indeed! (John 8:36)

Heavenly Father, thank you for the people you have placed along the way and the signposts you have put in my path to lead me to Your promised land. I pray that exploring the landscape of godly freedom releases even more joy into my life and results in an abundance of spiritual fruit for me and my family. I pray for the insight and wisdom to always run toward You as I pursue Your goodness. You are a good, good Father who wants me to have the freedom to pursue You wherever the Spirit leads. If there are more chains to be broken, reveal them to me. I renounce any lies that keep me from knowing who You are and who I am in You. In Jesus name I pray! Amen.