This year has been a fascinating experiment in suffering, in joy, in life, really. So much muchness, I like to say. And something that has become more and more apparent to me as time has worn on, is what it means to be free. To be really free.
The world has what it calls freedom. It has a sort of pseudo-freedom that looks an awful lot like freedom at first glance. But in so many ways, the freedom I have experienced thus far in my life has just been more slavery. It’s just been more of the same circles around the bottom of the mountain, afraid to ever climb up.
A scripture I often wrestled with was this one:
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
(Matthew 5:29-30 ESV)
So that there is the Man Himself, Jesus. And those words are peculiar and clearly at least somewhat metaphoric, but it always bothered me. I mean, did He mean to be maimed as some way to prove one’s worth? (Quick answer: no.) And I realized that there was something deeper there. Something I had never really put my finger on, before this year.
So much of my life has been slavishly devoted to eye and to hand. So much of my life has been to accept things for a picture of wholeness, or health, that were really destructive. Jesus isn’t saying that your eye is what causes you to sin. In fact, He makes it clear, in that very chapter, that sin is a heart issue, not a hand issue. He says that murdering someone in your heart is the same as murdering them with your hand. So then if we see context there of what it means to cut your hand off or cut your eye out, then we see that maybe there is a deeper element than just the fleshly part.
This year I have had to give up and lay down hands and eyes. One of the very hardest things I ever had to do, I did last year around this time. I had to lose a friendship. I had to withdraw from it. And I can say without a shadow of a doubt, it was like cutting off a hand. It was like plucking out an eye. But it was also so deeply, deeply necessary.
Why? Because it wasn’t healthy, spiritually. It wasn’t leading me closer to Jesus. It wasn’t taking me deeper into grace. It was, in fact, doing much the opposite. Were there good parts? Yes. Were there great parts? Yes. But to cut that hand off, to pluck that eye out, meant freedom. It meant to truly walk the way I needed to walk. It meant pain. It meant blood. It meant so much and yet, it was necessary.
And so much has come through that season of pain. So much freedom. I stand now at the cusp of new freedoms. I stand, waiting, watching, my stump healed but still giving me pain, my eyepatch firmly in place. Because I have tasted the freedom that comes through pain. I have tasted the freedom that comes through broken weakness. And there is so much grace here for me, a lame and blind beggar.