I sat in front of my friends in the classroom, getting ready to teach. A familiar pang of insecurity discomforted me.
Ugh, here again?
I battled those thoughts away for an hour as I taught. After it was over, I found myself with an array of emotions. On one hand, I can’t think of anything I love to do more than to teach the Bible. On the other, what is the point of teaching if I am not helping others learn?
“Loose him and let him go”
A couple of days later, I found myself reading a very familiar chapter, where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. This time, though, my eyes settled upon the last verse:
“The dead man came out bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Loose him and let him go'” (John 11:44)
I journaled my first thoughts: Could it be that after we are saved – or after a spiritual healing has taken place – we could still be bound by our grave-clothes? We’re not truly “free” until we’re loosed from them.
I look at grave-clothes as secondary bindings related to that which held us captive. They aren’t as strong; they don’t prohibit basic movement, but they inhibit true freedom.
As I began to reflect on this a little more, I began to see my freedom from my need of approval as like freedom from bondage that held me captive. I truly feel that in my core, Jesus has freed me. But sometimes I wonder if I’ve discarded all those grave-clothes.
Or, I wonder if sometimes I try to put them back on.
Emerging in Freedom
My husband worked at a funeral home through college, and in fact, our first home was the apartment above the funeral home at which he worked. We’re pretty familiar with the ins and outs of contemporary burial customs, one of which is that people are typically buried in clothes.
I’m not sure if Lazarus was buried in clothing, but I would assume that if cloth was at a premium in those days, perhaps he had only been clothed with an undergarment and the burial linens. All this is pure conjecture on my part, but if I’m right, that means he emerged from that tomb only partially clothed.
Free, but Feeling Exposed
When I gain my freedom over that which has bound me, sometimes I feel exposed.
This is exactly how I felt as I taught at church that Wednesday night. Having recently found healing from needing outside factors to validate my work, I headed to teach what I felt God had placed on my heart. Still, without any outside validation, I felt exposed.
I found myself reaching for those familiar grave-clothes again.
For every person who walked in the door of the classroom, I took that as approval, mentally taking linen strip after linen strip and covering my most vulnerable places–thinking their approval would make me a little less exposed.
On the other hand, every time I was met with silence in a discussion question or perceived someone might have been bored with what I was teaching, it was like linen strips fastening themselves around my arms, around my feet, around my mouth–binding me tighter and tighter, inhibiting the freedom that I had.
I found myself going back to that familiar bondage from which I had already been set free. And soon, I found that I was right back in those grave-clothes. Alive, but not free.
A Conscious Decision
Sometimes, I realized, it’s inevitable to visit that which once bound us, but making the conscious decision not to don the grave-clothes again is critical. We have to be willing to sit there, exposed, trusting in the freedom we were given.
Each of us has experienced – or is experiencing – some kind of bondage, even after we’ve been set free from the chains of sin and death when we were saved. The first step is to recognize that bondage – to look at ourselves and see those grave-clothes for what they are.
Then, once the power of God that is within us frees us from those grave-clothes, we must not let our guard down! For once we are free, many times we feel the most exposed and vulnerable. We must be careful not to go back to those grave-clothes, as promising as they may look. Although they seem to be a safe covering, truly they will only bind us again.
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