The way a thing seems and the way a thing is often differs. Limited or skewed perspectives, outside opinions, and lack of information all feed reality’s misalignment. And I hear the misalignment, read it loud and clear, that there’s more to do, always more.
I hold my breath as if submerged, submerged under the doing, under the expectations, requirements, tasks. As if their completion will qualify me, make me enough, I accept the message. My lungs long to exhale. But the way a thing seems and the way a thing is often differs. What if I’m not really submerged at all?
My Bible is open to Galatians. I read it all in. Read it aloud. The ancient letter written to a church I’ll never visit draws me. I pause after these words,
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
Paul writes to Jews feeling the need to be justified or made right by works instead of faith. Those who choose to cling to the doing instead of the promise, the flesh instead of the Spirit. Some feel the pressure of others’ imposing judgments and yield freedom for bondage, yield grace for law.
But they have received something the law, the works, the bondage could not supply. He reminds them that they are heirs of the promise, heirs of righteousness, heirs of freedom to walk in right standing with God. It is a divinely completed work, a gift; no human effort can make it more complete. So, he reproves them, “You have been made free to be free, stop trying to earn something you already have received.”
A question bubbles, “How does this apply to me?”
Like so many, I feel the demands, buckle under the pressure of this contemporary world. The words of Muller ring true, “We overload our expectations on ourselves and others, inflate our real and imaginary responsibilities, until our fierce and tender human hearts finally collapse under the relentless pressure of impossible demands.” The work is never finished, the end never comes. Is this how bondage feels?
My mind drifts and I wonder, when did we forget how to rest, how to stop? Why do we live as slaves when we have been made free? On the seventh day, God rested from his work. His work reached completion and his efforts ceased. He exhaled. I want to exhale too.
Paul’s words take on new life. Like the Jews of long ago, we are heirs. We have received freedom, the free gift of grace. Nothing we can do can make us freer, more complete. It's a truth for the ancient ones and a truth for me.
So, do I accept impossible demands, work hard for approval, hold my breath and stay submerged, because I have forgotten I’m already free? Have we all forgotten? The way a thing seems and the way a thing is often differs.
Life will always have tasks. Responsibilities will remain. But, the fuel that drives our actions to complete them can change in light of this truth. We were made free to be free. Our to-do list is not our qualifier, nor our task master. We are already enough, that battle has been won.
The work is complete. He exhaled, “It is finished.” It’s time we exhale too.
Wayne Muller, A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough, (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2010), 5.