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Stop. Just stop.

When we visited California in May and took an impromptu drive-by of Hollywood and sauntered our way down Rodeo Drive, the husband and I were both struck by how easy it would be to get caught up in the striving and the buying and the burden to impress (and I do mean burden.) In my $11 jeans from Kohl's, a polk-a-dot top and Aaron in an equally unimpressive (but he still looked hot) polo, we stuck out like the country bumpkins we are. It was extremely unnerving. I felt nearly humiliated and hadn't done a thing. Our rental car, a stripped down Dodge Caliber that had manual windows and a driver's side seat that squeaked nearly constantly, made us feel even more out of place in the sea of cars I can't even spell without Google assist.

It's so easy to get caught up in striving. And it's exhausting (and debt inducing) when it occurs. We try so hard to blend. To make the cut. We don't realize, but it's a monster that can quickly devour our assets and more importantly, our hearts. I remember seeing a beautiful girl, dining on Rodeo Drive, dark sun glasses covering what were surely pretty eyes, wine glass in hand, and by her facial expression, she looked empty. I felt like Cinderella (still in rags) to her star-worthy get-up, and yet it caught me how desirous it would be to fit in... and how hard I would try, were I in her stiletto shoes with the manicured toes.

We try pretty hard, don't we? When it comes to "being a Christian" we tend to have an idea of what that title means. What requirements dangle on the fringes. What we fail to see, though, is that so often our promises to "try harder tomorrow" or our stress over not doing enough today, wraps us up in the unforgiving ties of bondage. We trade freedom in Christ for a to-do list that would send Mother Teresa to bed with a migraine. What do we think about doing more? Do we think it'll make us more worthy of God? Do we flatter ourselves into thinking that if we just do x, y and z then we'll somehow make it? Do we really not understand what "all have sinned" really means? Or what the true definitions of grace and mercy are? Or do we really, really think that God "needs" us?

Honestly? I think we need a tall, cold glass of reality:

"The God who made the world and everything in it
is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not
live in temples built by hands. And he is
not served by human hands, as if He needed
, because he himself gives all
men life and breath and everything else."
~ Acts 17:24-25

So, tell me again what we think we're actually accomplishing?

We really, really, really need to remember some beautiful truths about the love of God for us. This past weekend we celebrated the freedom that we enjoy in this country... I think we need to go sit outside and think about the freedom we have in Christ. We think more about our rights within the confines and boundaries of the United States of America and less about the beautiful expanse that our souls have in terms of the freedom that is found in Christ Jesus.

If you read Romans chapter 7 (particularly verses 7 through 24) we will see the truth that we all struggle with sin. That Paul was just like us... that he knew what he wanted to do, what he should do, and still couldn't make it happen. That the things he knew he should run from, he ran to. That the things he wanted to put to death, kept coming back to life. But then Romans 8:1 states that, "Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Do you not feel the relief? Knowing that you don't have to be perfect or maintain whatever standard of "being a Christian" you have conjured up in your sinful mind... do you not feel that it is bondage that ties you to be perfect and not God's desire for His people? Continuing in Romans 8, verse 15 hits the nail on the prison-wall head: "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship."

Do you see it? We have not received a spirit of slavery... "again". That's how we were before Christ. That was then, not now. There is freedom, now. There is no finger pointing. You should be able to breathe easier when in Christ. Naturally, this doesn't mean we sit at home and do nothing or that we forsake meeting with other believers, studying or growing closer to Christ. But what it means is that we get rid of that dark cloud of oppression and step into the light.

In the book of Galatians (verses 13 through 15) we find it summed up: "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." The Bible also says that we will be known by our love. Not by our acts, which are all filthy rags compared to the greatness of what God has done in and for us... but by our love for one another and our God.

If our lives were marked by love and not striving, what would our days look like? What would our walks with the Lord look like? What would our churches look like? If we were less about doing and more about being... what would that change? If I sought God early in the morning because I couldn't wait to spend time with Him, versus the guilt I'd feel if I didn't put in my devotion time for the day like a "Good Christian" would do - how would that affect me? If I really understood that nothing I can do can earn God's approval, wouldn't that free me to seek and serve as God impresses on my heart and not on what I think my "Christian Do" list demands? If I truly came to grips with my own unworthiness and the benefits and gifts God has draped around my sinful shoulders, would it not change my day? How I love my husband? How I treat others or volunteer for service opportunities?

If I was free to love God and others, minus the restraints of what an "American Christian" is supposed to do, what would I look like? Could my heart be free from the squeeze of guilt? Could I escape the pangs of busyness and trade activity for authenticity? If I held tight to the truth that I'll never make it and that I don't need to... can't you feel it? It's like a cool breeze hissing through a stifling heat wave.

There are no more chains. Stop fiddling with them. Stop letting them trail you...

Just.  Stop.

"Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." ~ John 8:35-36


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