The Journey resumes, and perhaps the best way to get us back to the trail is to give a few examples.
For those joining us, I began a series on the process, or the journey from bondage to freedom. The first several posts had to do with changing our thinking. This is always the necessary first step. Repent!! Not “cry til you feel bad enough to do better”, the word means to “Think Differently”. To take in the world around you and process old thoughts in new ways. Repent. It is always the first necessary step in freedom, because HOW we are thinking is always part of the trap.
Second we discussed that the entanglements that keep us stuck are always an interplay between our circumstances, our soul, and the spiritual realm. We discussed how a stronghold develops and which acts of our will can help, as well as which acts of our will can actually hinder.
Then I wrote about demons. Yep, I did. Rational, logical American me, finally broke down and wrote a post about the influence of demons in the journey to freedom. If I read the New Testament right, you can’t really get a grasp on the true nature of reality without acknowledging the spiritual realm and all it’s inhabitants.
So here we are…
I would like to see if we can make these thoughts a bit concrete by following these ideas in two very common traps. I would like to talk about fear and lust. Two traps that are extremely common to the human race.
Lets say that you have struggled with fear or lust. You would know the degree of the struggle. For some these thought/feeling states are an occasional irritant, and for others, they become a daily, minute by minute wrestling match, in which their every thought and every moment is locked somewhere in the intensity of their struggle. Both of these degrees are simply positions on a continuum of intensity. The irritated one is a few steps away from living the “life and death” wrestle.
The common response when struggling is to begin to try to not feel the fear. Or to try not to think and feel the lustful thoughts. This is step one to MORE bondage, not freedom. Thinking about getting rid of fear and lust is still thinking about fear and lust. The subtle shift of focus gives more ground in your mind and not less. This is the slippery slope that often moves people into a deeper struggle. My solution can actually become my new (and often worse) problem. Because along with the increased intensity and frequency of thought is the condemnation that comes with the growing sense of failure, and the hopelessness that comes with the apparent unchangeability of the issue.
This is the key shift, and the first step to a journey of real freedom and not not just symptom management. It may sound simple but the dynamic is huge, and simple does not always mean easy. Ready? Here it is:
Seek First the Kingdom of Heaven.
Remember that whatever you seek first organizes your life. The thing that has your attention and focus has the most power in your soul. Seeking first the Kingdom is a shift of focus that makes the invisible Presence of a Living Speaking God that which you pay most attention to and that which you focus on.
The trap here is that many people hear this and the first thing they do is shift their attention so that the problem will go away. When we do this we may have moved the Kingdom up on our priority list but it has not arrived at first place. We have actually asked God’s Kingdom to serve our needs, and this leaves our needs still in the position of “seek first”. We must come to the place where we are seeking first the Present activity of God for the sake of the present activity of God, regardless of whether or not it seems to help with our problem. See, I told you it was simple but not easy.
As we change our thinking (repent) the next thing we do is to continue to interact with the God who speaks. Let Him begin to determine our focus. He may talk to us about something seemingly unrelated.
If you struggle with fear, He may talk to you about Himself, and lies you believe about Him. He may want to talk to you about a specific memory and how He sees that memory differently than you do. He most certainly will want to talk to you about Love. Perfect love casts out fear, not your strong willful resistance to fear. He may show you ways that you have become your own protector, and then He may ask you by an act of your will to surrender those walls, and choose to allow Him to take over the role of protector. He may even have you go and do some things that once would have provoked waves of fear, so that He can show you something new.
If you struggle with lust, He may want to talk to you about comfort. He may want to talk to you about your relationship with your parents. He may want to talk to you about a specific memory, and how He sees that memory differently than you do. He certainly wants to talk to you about love, and who you are, because He knows that ultimately none of us are defined by our sexuality, though it often feels that we are.
When these conversations begin to draw to a close, it may be time to assume a position of authority and speak to any demonic spirits that may have come to influence you in your struggle. You don’t have to get all “King-Jamesy” on this part, but you do have to understand that their influence came because somewhere in your heart you made a place for them, and your conversations with God about seemingly unrelated topics, helps to begin to erode their right to keep influencing you. At some point, try to assume that not all of the “harassing thoughts” were actually YOU. Tell them that you do not want them anymore, and that they have to go away now. Often these moments of taking authority are accompanied by a sense of relief or release. Sometimes there is no “experiential” component until later, when you realize that things that used to seem to be a natural part of your mind are no longer there.
Now it is time to Live Differently. From these Think Differently moments and conversations it is important to begin to walk out what has happened.
I always compare this part of the journey to removing a thorn or a splinter from your hand. Once you remove a splinter, you can see that it is gone, but for a short season, it can feel as if it is still there. The skin is broken, the nerves are inflamed. The sharp pain is not entirely alleviated. At these moments, we can either lament that nothing has changed, or we can begin to rub the skin where the once present splinter did it’s damage. We rub the skin to stimulate the nerves, and to soothe the inflammation. But also in the process of rubbing our skin, we find that we also come to feel, and know that the splinter is gone.
The equivalent to “rubbing the wound” in this journey is when we find the things that are new and begin to embrace them. When we remind ourselves of things that God said to us in the conversations, and when we do not simply accept the initial lamentation that “nothing has changed”.
Now it is time to live the life that God created us for. Remember freedom is not the absence of fear and lust, it is the Presence of love and life. Freedom is not the absence of something it is the Presence of Someone.