Sunday, March 22, 2015

Why Cast Your Burdens?

Last year about this time, I wrote a couple of posts about the idea of bearing one another’s burdens and casting one’s burdens onto Christ. I had more posts on my mind, but they never reached the stage of being written.

In the past couple months, that theme has been repeating itself in a couple different areas of my life….and so I may write some of those posts I was mulling on last year.

But first, I wanted to mention something else Uncle Jonnes talked about earlier this month after leading us on a journey to the cross, which I talked about in my previous post.

He used a term (Rutegga Mubegga) in his native language, which refers to someone who helps carry someone else’s burden. And he told a story of a man who used this term as a name for Jesus. When he faced troubles and challenges, he taught his daughter how to pray, bringing the burdens to Rutegga Mubegga.

After entrusting them to the shoulder of Jesus, this man was able to live out Christ’s grace and love because he was no longer carrying the weight of the injury done to him. He had entrusted it to the one who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23), and thus was able to serve as a channel of His love and grace.

I really appreciated that imagery, it struck a chord with me. And as I think about it again tonight, I’m reminded of what I wrote in one of my posts last year. We don’t carry our burdens to Christ so that we can have an easy life. No, we are called to surrender the burdens of our sin and our self-protection so that we can take up the burden of loving and caring for others.

Last year, I was going to write a whole post about the song “Let It Go” from Frozen. It resonated with me, because I identified with Elsa’s seeking to find safety by hiding her true self: “Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know.” But as I’ve thought about it more since then, I can see how misplaced her solution (running away to isolation in an ice castle) to that self-oppression was.

While that song is the one that went viral overnight, it’s not the high point of the movie. In fact, it’s closer to the low point. Elsa was indulging herself, not considering others and the effect her choices were having on them.

Her being bound by fear for all of those years, trying to control her powers herself had not worked, but neither did giving in and carrying out her whims with a wild abandon. It’s not a perfect analogy, but I see in the story a parallel to the Christian life. Isolation is never the answer. If you compare Elsa’s powers to humanity’s flesh, we can see the futility of both trying to stuff our desires and wantonly carrying them out.

Both lead to fear and bondage, not freedom.

So where is freedom found? The movie points in the right direction, but can’t give the full answer. Freedom is found in love – more specifically, the love of Christ. In Him removing our burdens as we choose to surrender to Him, by His grace and strength.

Once we have been transformed and released from fear by the self-sacrificial love of our Savior, then we can be truly free to use the gifts which He has given us: not for our selfish-gratification, but rather for the good of others.

Christ takes our burdens that we may be His servants in leading others to Him to have their burdens also lightened, and all for His glory. That is our mission in and through Him.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

I Am Free

This morning, I rode a boda from Kasana all the way to Luwero (about a 30 minute trip) for the first time. It was still early, and so the wind was cold. But all the way, there was a song ringing through my mind as the wind whipped my friend’s hair into my face:

“I am free to run,
I am free to dance,
I am free to live for You,
Yes, I am free."
{from the Newsboys’ “I am Free}
We sang this song and another similar one at Envisioning in January, and I loved both songs immediately because they parallel what God has been speaking into my heart the past couple months. I talked about it in an internal way in a blog post early last month.
On the last day of Envisioning, our New Hope staff had communion together. After we finished, the pastor who had led asked the worship band to play “Jailbreak” again. He called on one of the men to carry a medium-sized cross displayed in our church around the outside perimeter of our meeting area. And he encouraged all of us to parade after it, celebrating the freedom we have in Christ because of His finished work.

Because of the work God had been doing in my life that week, I was eager for an opportunity to express my thankfulness. I tried dancing and singing at the same time, which just made me breathless. For the first time in my life, I worshipped with true abandon….not caring if I made a fool of myself. The memory almost brings tears of joy to my eyes :)
So why do I write all of this now, almost two months later? Because God, in His faithfulness, is continuing to bring home the application of these glorious truths in my life. A big tool for that has been the Institute – it is an amazing, challenging, soul-searching journey rightly compared to heart surgery :) And the past week has been another big step in that process.

Uncle Jonnes, the Ugandan cofounder of New Hope Uganda, did most of the teaching this week about heart wounds, what causes them, and how to deal with them. He has been teaching from Isaiah 53 and Mark 15 about how Christ came to bear and set us free from our sorrows and grief as well as our sin. Yesterday, the week culminated in a journey to the cross.
During an hour of reflection, we each read through some Scripture passages Uncle Jonnes had given us and then spent time thinking about some of the things which have hurt us, the wounds of which we were still carrying. He told us to write them down, then bring them and nail them to the same cross I mentioned earlier.

“Don’t keep a copy!” he instructed. “We’re going to write on each of these papers Jesus’ words: ‘It is finished,’ and then we are going to do with them what needs to be done.” The hour flew by too fast, probably because I was writing more detail than he intended us to. Forgiving a boy for an act of immaturity that I have been subconsciously letting define me for nearly two decades. Losses that I have never grieved properly. Wounds which, though I have been processing them, have still been affecting me. I went onto a second page and was late going back to class. The tears flowed, sometimes at surprising moments.
Finally I made my way back, and with the others nailed the folded paper onto a representation of our Savior’s cross. Uncle Jonnes reminded us that if we keep on carrying these things which Jesus came to put to death with Himself, then we are acting out a belief that His work is not sufficient. A word of prayer, and then the papers were removed.

Uncle Jonnes carried them outside, to where a sigiri waited with hot charcoal on it. And there, as we watched, the papers burned—a sweet smelling offering to the Lord. Those things do not define us: Christ’s righteousness and wholeness does. It. Is. FINISHED. And in our Savior, we are FREE.
The peace and quietness dwelling in my heart since yesterday has been a sweet blessing. Of course, I know there will obviously be more challenges in my life ahead. Even those things I wrote down may continue to haunt and shape me…..IF I LET THEM. As Uncle Jonnes reminded us, this is a journey. And yesterday was just one step of the journey.

But it was a beautiful step, and one I am still rejoicing in today :)