Music has always been an avenue through which God speaks to me in some pretty incredible ways. Whether I’m singing, listening, playing, worshipping, or anything in between… my life is often manifestation of the phrase “when words fail, music speaks”.
This week has been no exception to that.
Early Tuesday afternoon I got word that I’ll be playing in church again this Sunday, and that meant rehearsal would be in just a few hours. Two of the three songs I was very familiar with, so I was able to spend my afternoon in a frenzy preparing for my work week. Rehearsal was good, I was able to figure out exactly what I would need to practice. But there was something else about Tuesday night… I mean, as I told a few friends, “I really needed this rehearsal tonight, and I don’t just mean to practice the piano”.
One of our songs this Sunday?
No Longer Slaves.
It’s been a favorite for many, many years. And the last fourteen months have been no exception. But as I’ve spoken to so many times… just because I’m able to get out of bed each day not wanting to die anymore, that doesn’t mean my chronic illness has disappeared.
One of the reasons Tuesday afternoon was so emotionally draining… there’s been some difficult situations for me at work lately. Now isn’t the time to go into detail, but it’s been a lot of stuff that has made me question my worth and value as an employee. It’s made me question who does and doesn’t support me at work, it’s caused me to doubt that I can do my job and do it well. Last weekend and this week it has all come to a climax in many ways, it’s gotten to the point where I can’t ignore it anymore. And while I can’t control what others think of me or how they judge me, what I CAN control is how I respond. What I CAN control is my own self image, how I view myself and my worth… ultimately a daughter of the most high God.
This week as I’ve been able to remember who I am… whose I am… I’ve felt better about my work than I have in weeks. When I remember who I am and that I can do this job? I finally start to become the employee I know I want to – and CAN! – be.
I love how the chorus of No Longer Slaves is exceptionally simple…
“I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God!”
Whether or not we qualify for a diagnosis of clinical anxiety, fear is something to which ALL of us can relate. I mean… 365 commands in scripture of “do not fear”. I think it’s safe to say God knew it would be a struggle for us!
Over the years I’ve had many “moments” during worship. Not to say that we need them to truly worship – not in the least. But for those of us who hear and see God through music, these moments can become lifelines. In all of my years, though… I have yet to have an experience like I did on Tuesday night during a rehearsal (as opposed to during a service or concert of some kind). But oh my goodness, did I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. Wow.
A few short hours later, I was in the car driving to work. Early on Wednesday morning, it was my Monday, and the work week was just beginning.
I had the song on repeat, not just to practice the vocals, but because it was quickly becoming a lifeline for all of the fear and insecurities I was having at work. As I listened, I remembered… something I wrote last spring ended with the quote of the chorus – “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God!” It took me a minute to locate which piece of writing I had used it in, and when I did? I could feel my eyes roll into the back of my head.
For a long time now I’ve felt strongly that the Lord is continually calling me to a deep level of transparency. Some have expressed concern over the years for how much I share, and I do appreciate the feedback – because I know they really do care. I continue to learn when I should and should not share, how much to share depending on the situation, so many things. But the way that I see it? If I don’t share, if I’m not transparent about the battle with mental illness and how it can relate to our faith in Jesus… who will?
Over the last few years, my transparency has become deeper and also much more intentional. However, last spring I discovered that while it was easy for me to share about some things… other aspects of my struggle? Not so much. I’ve come to learn that really it’s a few specific things that are much harder to share. And some could argue that maybe I shouldn’t share if it’s that much harder. But… this side of heaven, we are all a work in progress. Harder doesn’t have to mean unnecessary.
So when the Lord seemingly drops something in your lap, making it SO clear that now is another opportunity to continue shining the light in the darkest places… by now? I’ve learned to just say yes.
With that being said, I would like to share with you a letter that I wrote last April. It’s a letter to the sharp objects that ruled my life for so many years, written on the day that I said goodbye for good.
“A letter to my blades…
For the last seven years, you have served a very distinct purpose in my life. Our relationship has not been steady since that first cut during my senior year, but you have always been there in some kind of way, just in case I needed you.
Well, I never really did need you… my brain just fed me the lies that I did. Yes, you did provide a release, but it was a very sick and twisted release. It never lasted, and all that you ever really did was drive my shame deeper and deeper.
So on the one hand… in some weird and backwards way, I guess I could thank you. Because of your sick and twisted nature, my shame kept getting worse and worse until I had no choice but to face it head on.
I hope you… somebody already bled so that I would never have to. That somebody is Jesus, and He gave His life on the cross so that I could be free of all my shame and all my darkness.
So, my sharp objects, because you have such a habit of perpetuating the darkness as long as you continue to have even the slightest presence…
This is goodbye. I am done with you in my life. I am removing you from my life absolutely, completely, and entirely – both my physical blades as well as the option to ever go back.
After all… I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God!”
I have to admit, the day I wrote that letter and threw it all away… I was terrified. At that point in the 68 days, the darkness and shame was still suffocating. Throwing them away was an act of faith, it was my way of saying – God, I still don’t really see how, but I know you WILL bring this healing.
And He did.
Oh my goodness, He did.
He still does, really.
So earlier in the week, as I needed the reminder not only of who I am, but of whose I am… these words, this song… it was a healing balm to my weary soul.
God never promised us an easy life, but He did promise to be with us no matter what.
Brothers, sisters, friends…
We are no longer slaves to fear.
We are children of God.