We are all slaves to something in this life. Too many people are slaves to their greed - finding themselves way over-extended when it comes to the way they spend, spend, spend. To them, plastic has become the way of achieving a lifestyle they "think" they want - only to find themselves enslaved to a load of debt which seems all to hard to dig out from under. Others are engaged in wrong-way relationships, dead-ending in disaster. It wasn't because they didn't receive plenty of warning signs along the way prior to "committing" to the relationship, but they just acted out that old truth - love is blind. Their emotions got the best of them and now they are bemoaning their choices, looking for a way out, and cringing beneath the load of guilt they feel over being duped by the other individual. Still others are trying to find a way to soothe their guilty conscience because once again they are finding themselves mopping up after some wrong choice they made which resulted in them giving into some sin God clearly told them to avoid. The shame of the sin is almost overwhelming because they think they should be at "a different place in life" now - not dealing with the same old issues over and over again. Regardless of what has us feeling like we are a "slave" to something, we all deal with the same emotions. None of us is unique when it comes to our emotions - we may have a different "mix" of them from time to time, but they are all the same really. We all experience fear - some are just willing to admit it, while others are too "scared" to admit they deal with it! We all experience joy - some on a more exuberant plane than others. We also experience frustration, sadness, elation, and the list goes on. There are times when we are "high" on emotions, while moments come when we are just plain down in the "mully-grubs". As slaves to anything, we are pleasing that thing. We don't really "please" ourselves all that well - we just get deeper into "debt" to the thing we are focusing on so intently. The debt may be monetary, but it could also be emotional! Either way, we find ourselves kind of "trapped" - like we are under a load of something so heavy we just cannot find a way to break free. The truth is WE cannot break free - we need someone to loosen our bonds and set us free. There is no one who does this quite as well as Jesus!
When you were slaves of sin, you didn’t have to please God. But what good did you receive from the things you did? All you have to show for them is your shame, and they lead to death. Now you have been set free from sin, and you are God’s slaves. This will make you holy and will lead you to eternal life. Sin pays off with death. But God’s gift is eternal life given by Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:20-23 CEV)
Slave don't work to please themselves - they are really working to please another. This is the misguided belief some of us have when it comes to breaking free of our sin or "indebtedness" to anything. We think we can somehow "pay the price" and be set free. The truth remains the same from one life to the next - WE only get deeper into "debt" to whatever it is we are captivated by rather than breaking free of its hold! Sure, we might "work ourselves out of debt" in a material sense of the word, working hard to pay off credit cards, loans, and even selling our "stuff" for dimes on the dollars compared to what we paid for it originally. WE really didn't get free, though - we just let go. The danger in working our way out of our "jams" in life is that we somehow think we are the ones capable of really breaking free of the very thing which got us to that point of enslavement in the first place. Now, I don't advocate walking away from our monetary debt - we have an obligation to pay our debts to those who we have committed to pay. I do advocate seeking God's help to "re-frame" our focus on life so that we are not giving into the very thing which got us into this pickle in the first place somewhere else down the road. If we don't allow God to deal with the underlying framework of whatever led us into the whimsical over-buying trend in our lives, we will always run into it again down the road.
To be truly free from whatever holds us in bondage, we need to be "set free". To understand this, let me use an illustration. A caterpillar cocoon can be placed inside a large terrarium and allowed to "incubate" there for the time it takes to transform what is inside into a large moth. When the time comes for the moth to be "born" from the cocoon, it works its way out of the binding walls of the cocoon. The problem comes when he finds he has done all that work to be "free" of his bondage and then he encounters the walls of the terrarium! In essence, he has worked to be free, but finds himself only a little less in bondage! He is still captive inside the glass frame of his "home". He can see things on the outside which seem quite appealing, but he cannot reach those new heights or experience their wonder until someone actually removes the lid from the terrarium. Once the lid is lifted, what is the moth free to do? He can soar freely and experience ALL the good things prepared for him outside of those glass walls. The same is true of our own lives - we might struggle to free ourselves from those things which act as tightly woven "cocoons" around us. It might be a sin we struggle with so frequently, or that relationship we just seem to never "get right". Yet, when we finally think we are free, we look around to find ourselves merely in a place where we have a little more "space", but as we soon realize, we are still not "free".
God's grace is the "lifter of our lid", so to speak. There is nothing which sets us free quite in the same manner as his grace. Grace is something I like to use an acrostic to explain: Gentle Re-Alignment Creating Escape. God gently realigns our focus - toward him and him alone. Then he creates within us those desires which move us toward him. In moving toward him, we are moving away from those things which were our "captors". We don't need to look back to know we are now free from those bonds. We only need to continue to look forward! Grace beckons us forward. Guilt focuses us on the chains which hold us tightly in their coils. Grace re-conditions us to see AND experience life outside the walls of our bondage. By our own efforts, we might see life outside our walls, but until Grace lifts the lid - we are still in the walls of our bondage! Just sayin!