What do you see when you look at me?
Go ahead, rattle them off, say what you think, what you believe, I won’t stop you. In fact, I can’t hear a word you will say, so go ahead – speak. Utter the words that you see as true, in me. And you know what? I can’t change one thing you think or believe. Not one bit. But man, have I spent years trying!
I’ve invested time into trying to change, rebuild, transform something deep within me. Something I can’t even put my finger on. Yet it’s something I continue to hide, to run from and to fight with every ounce of my being.
I’ve been held captive to the expectations and the thoughts of what others think of me for way too long. Thoughts of how I look, how I act, what I choose, what I don’t choose – on and on the list goes – endless, it seems. Sometimes it’s the list others expect of me, but often it’s the list I churn out for myself. Constantly seeing just one more thing, adding to the stack already piled all over my heart and my mind.
Well I ever measure up?
The very first moment Jesus stood up to read from the Scriptures to announce His ministry, He spoke these words as the bedrock and foundation.
“ The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me
because God anointed me.
He sent me to preach good news to the poor,
heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives,
pardon all prisoners.” Isa 61: 1-2
You see, what you might see in me or not see in me – will never be what I see. I look in the mirror and what is reflected back to me are the thoughts that swirl hidden beneath the surface of my reality. The doubts that creep in, the fears which begin to assail me and I wonder -how did I get here? With all my God has done for me, why do I choose to live here?
I am a captive.
I have bound my head and my heart by living to the expectations that I place upon myself and accepting what others think as a truth to be lived by. You don’t need to tie up my hands, or clasp my feet, I did so for you. I’ve made it so simple to live a defeated life. I never saw a way out, even as I fought and rebelled against the oppression, I quietly and sometimes not so quietly, yielded, and lived a self defeated life. A lie.
When Jesus says in Isaiah 61 that He came to release the captives, the Hebrews most often rendition of being a captive means to be “carried off.” While engaged in battle, the Hebrews often carried off their plunder. As they raged war on the land, they surveyed the things of value and sought out the most precious things of all and captured them. To be a captive, a slave, was not considered a good, or a healthy thing. Often you had no choice, it was life – or death.
Isn’t that the way it goes? Sometimes in your life you have no choice.
Things happen that are out of your control. And in an instant, you are taken captive to the experience, the situation and the fear that often surrounds it. Trauma takes center stage, abuse, neglect, an accident, a sudden loss of a loved one, an illness, financial ruin. Whatever the situation, you move from being a victim – to be bound and captive to it in your life.
Your experiences shape who you are, who you see yourself to be and somewhere along the way you give them permission to define you. And it’s in those moments, the shackles go on. You clamp them around your wrists and your feet. You may not hear it at the time, yet their grip is secure.
We give control away.
There we are – a captive. Being led from the land you once knew – to a new place filled with fear, questions and uncertainties.
Long ago, I accepted that one’s life is constrained and defined not only by personal experiences, but by the power of the living God. It was here I began, in the pages of Isaiah 61 to meet Jesus, the Christ. Who came to announce the freedom in which we already stand because of who Jesus is and release those who are held captive.
Announce and release – just like that. So simple, so divine, such good news!
Yet, as a fellow captive to another, not so easy, is it? Perhaps you are not captive yourself, that’s okay. I admit I am personally bound up so tightly in the grips of the past and my own experiences, that I am not fully free and released to live in the freedom in which I now firmly stand. Somehow I throw the shackles back on, I pick them up, I revert to what seems the easiest at the time.
You see, what we know, how we have always handled things in the past – is often easy, comfortable and “normal”. However, is it always best for us?
The way of Jesus is hard.
There is a cost in following Jesus – forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration come through His sacrifice and life. He’s done this for us on the cross at Calvary and He wants us to do the same for others. To forgive, reconcile and restore relationships in our lives. It’s hard, but not impossible!
You see, we do have a choice – we can let go and release the shackles we place upon ourselves. Release ourselves from the expectations that we place upon ourselves and the ones others try to impose upon us. We can let go.
We might have been carried off in battle and held captive, but Jesus Christ can carry you now as you release yourself to Him and rest. Give yourself over, to rest. Rest in the arms of Jesus and be free.
Reclaim the captive!