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When I was little, I remember learning about the Bible story of Moses and Pharaoh. We must have yelled the phrase “let my people go!” as loud as we possibly could, and I’m pretty sure we had a cute song to sing in Sunday school that went along with it.
And then several years later, the movie Prince of Egypt was released. Oh man, that was one of my favorite Disney movies! Do you remember that moment when Moses encounters the burning bush and speaks to the Great I Am? He gets physically swept up in the power and wonder of Him. Oh, it gives me goosebumps every time.
But here’s the true story behind the children’s versions.... The Hebrew people, God’s chosen people, were slaves in Egypt. It happened very slowly, over hundreds of years. The Hebrew people came to live in the land when there was a famine in what would later be known as the “promised land”. Jacob brought his massive family down to Egypt where his beloved son Joseph was second in command. Jacob’s family settled there, fully free, fully fed and taken care of.
But slowly, over time, the Egyptians stripped them of their rights. They eventually were totally enslaved by the Egyptians.
As you have heard, years later Moses was put in a position by God to free His people from slavery. And he did. But after the locks were broken and the door was flung open, they didn’t really want to leave. Slavery was comfortable, familiar, and provided a strange sense of security. They didn’t want to embark on the unknown, even if God was telling them it was so much better…the promised land awaited them! They whined and complained the whole time God was trying to free them.
They preferred to stay in slavery.
Just like us.
As believers, we know that we have been freed from the bondage of sin. We know that the moment we turned our eyes to God, he loosened the chains that prevented us from living the life He longed for us to experience.
“…because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” Romans 8:2
What an amazing truth! We are totally free from the power of sin that leads to death! That's a really big deal.
However, slavery still is alluring. And turning back toward slavery is apparently not an isolated incidence...
“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
Paul (the author here) needed to remind the followers of Christ about their freedom. They kept turning back to the things that held them down. They were free, but they weren’t behaving like it.
Just like the Hebrew people. They were freed from bondage, but they kept turning back to that yoke of slavery. They preferred the things that led to death, not life, even though they had life in abundance at their fingertips.
Yep, that's us.
Friends, on the surface, we say that we’re free.
But for many of us, middle-class-American-Christian-moms, we have a chunk of our soul sitting in slavery. And many of us are ok with it, and don’t plan to do anything about it anytime soon. We’d rather stay slaves.
Let me show you what I mean...this might hurt a bit...
We are slaves to the mirror. We let our reflection dictate our worth. We stand in front of the mirror, picking ourselves apart, trying desperately to make that image look better. I often even see women walking by windows on the street trying to catch their reflection, changing their expression, fluffing their hair, pulling their belly in. That mirror, our reflection, has such a death grip on us.
We are slaves to food. Food has such a strong hold on us. We feel ashamed if we eat certain things, discontent when we don’t. Many of us are stuck on diets, just clamoring for the next solution that will finally “work”. We binge, we starve, we try to avoid things, then we cave in. We spend hours and hours of our lives obsessing over food. Instead of it simply being the source of physical fuel and even joy, it has become the thing the we're shackled to. Foods got us...good.
We are slaves to exercise. We desperately think that if we just worked out enough and “did enough cardio!”, we would have a body we liked. We end up hating exercise so much because it feels like punishment. Punishment for the food we ate, punishment for a body that’s out of shape, and punishment for being too fat. Yet we’re chained to it, slaves to it, because we feel like there’s no other way. We have no idea how to truly enjoy physical activity.
We are slaves to bitterness and jealousy. We’re bitter toward anyone that seems to have it pulled together. We’re jealous of the moms that are “tight, toned, and trendy”. We’re bitter about what our kids and aging have done to our body. We’re stuck in this jail cell of self pity and disgust because of our bitterness and jealousy. It's crippling.
We’re slaves to fear. And this is the big one. We’re deeply afraid of what other people, especially what other women, think of us and our bodies. We’re afraid of not measuring up. We’re afraid of being considered weak, puny, lazy, a slob. We’re afraid of having our cellulite showing, afraid of what someone would say about our arms, afraid of a shirt that doesn’t hide our not-so-flat bellies. Fear is underpinning all the other stuff that we’re enslaved to, as well. Fear determines our attitude and our actions on a regular basis.
Ouch. A little harsh? Perhaps.
But, do you see this?? Friend, can you see how a huge piece of you may be sitting in slavery right now? This was me, for a long time.
Listen, this may be hitting you in your most tender spots, but Christ came to set us free, and you might be the farthest thing from true freedom.
The Scary Unknown.
But just like the Hebrew people, freedom is unknown and scary. What would it mean to stop criticizing yourself in front of the mirror? What would it take to rip yourself away from diets and obsessive exercise? What would it feel like to trust God with your thoughts about your body?
What would happen to your body? What would others say?
I frequently have conversations with moms where it’s quite clear to me that they’re stuck as slaves. Usually, they don't see it.
They’re trapped by their body image.
They’re obsessed about food and exercise.
They refuse to see how far they’ve come with their health and strength because the scale says something else.
They can’t shake the feelings of jealousy and fear.
But they fail to see the problem with any of this.
Sister, slavery to anything leads to death. If you remain a slave to these things and let them rule your life, this part of your soul will die a slow death…a self-pitying, fearful, shameful, obsessive, bitter death.
Even though we can’t see it and it doesn’t make sense, freedom is always better.
No longer a slave!
“They [these things that have enslaved us] have greatly oppressed me from my youth, but they have not gained the victory over me…But the Lord is righteous; he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.” (Psalm 129:1-2, 4)
Let God cut you free from these cords of slavery. These things may have been oppressing you for a long time, maybe since you were a little girl, but cling to the truth that they have not gained victory over you. You are not subject to this. This is NOT how you were meant to live!
"For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” Deuteronomy 20:4
God is fighting for you against these enemies. You can have victory over obsession, shame, self-disgust, bitterness, defeat. You are no longer a slave!
Free at last.
What does it look like to be free from all of these things? It looks a little like this...
You see your body through God's eyes, as a beautifully designed piece of art.
You take care of it and respect it out of reverence and love, not fear.
You pursue strength, fitness, and health from a heart of stewardship and joy.
You constantly give yourself grace when things aren't perfectly done.
You begin to let the strict food and exercise boundaries loosen.
You let shame and embarrassment slough off of you.
You find joy in exercise and good nutrition...you can truly love it.
You feel contentment, sweet contentment, in your own skin.
You notice the uniqueness of your own body, the way God made you different from others, not as flawed but as individually design.
And you can step forward into freedom, celebrating each victory, and savoring the feeling of strength and wholeness.
Take the time to read through this again. Then pray. Ask God to show you if a piece of you is sitting comfortably in slavery. Chances are it's the very thing that popped out to you when you read this.
Jesus is in the business of setting people free. Be free, sweet momma!
He [Jesus] went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
An Opportunity for Freedom
Friend, you need to know that you have an opportunity to join a group of women that are learning about strength training, nutrition, and discipline, all from the perspective of freedom in Christ! The Strong Mommas Membership is an online fitness program that teaches you how to truly enjoy your body, to find contentment in your own skin, and how to pursue health and fitness from a Christ-centered perspective.
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