Ride 13 – Freedom

Opening Prayer:

Heavenly Father, we come to you first with thankfulness.  We are thankful for your grace, your love and your mercy.  We’re thankful for your grace that sustains us, your love that defines us and your mercy that keeps us from what we actually deserve.  God, we recognize that we are in unique times or as some would even say, unprecedented times. We are dealing with so much as a nation, social injustice, loss of jobs, loss of wages, and of course a virus called COVID-19 that has touched every part of the world causing great pain and heartache for so many.  On our minds right now are those who are working to combat this battle on the frontlines, those in our medical community. We pray protection over them and their families, we thank you for their service that reflects the heart of Jesus which is to consider someone else above yourself so, because of that we ask that you protect them, give them peace, and give them the strength they need as they serve so many all across our nation. We pray for those who have been affected by COVID-19 and for those who are actively fighting it now. We ask for complete and totally healing of their bodies.  Lord, we pray that not only will they be healed but may they be even better than before to the point of astonishing nurses and doctors. We pray for those who may be dealing with anxiety, depression, or fear because of the physical and mental effects of the virus.  God, your word says in Isaiah 26:3 (ESV), “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Help us to keep our minds on you so that we can experience your perfect peace.  We want to experience your peace that is absent of flaw and covers us in every way.  God there is nothing or no one like you.  You hung the moon in the sky, separated day from night, told the water that it could only come so far and placed in the galaxy every star, so we know that COVID-19 is no match for you.  In Jesus name, we pray for the complete eradication of COVID-19.  We ask that in your power that it completely vanishes almost as if it were never here.  Until that happens may we have the faith, hope, confidence and trust to know that you are in control and that you’ve got this! In Jesus name, Amen! (Michael S. Hamilton, Madison, Alabama)

Readings: 

Exodus 5:22-6:10; Luke 12:22-34

Bible Verses for the Day

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!” Galatians 5:1 

“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” Ephesians 3:12

Devotional: 

I’ll be honest with you; I’m writing this from freedom. Freedom from the upstairs isolation that has held us captivity for 39 days. Not physical captivity, because we have enjoyed our bike rides over the past 17 days, but the captivity of not being in community with the other two members of our family who are living downstairs, right below us, under the same roof, yet worlds and galaxies apart.

Don’t worry, we’re still riding and I’m still writing. Nothing has changed about that even with our new found freedom from isolation. I have already planned out my last five posts and began writing them as we took our bike rides last week. “Freedom” was supposed to be the theme of the last devotional, but I felt called to place it here, two thirds of the way to the finish line. It is my hope that it brings YOU hope and that it encourages you to keep going if you’re still in quarantine or isolation. Because freedom is coming. It is calling your name loud and clear. But you also need freedom now, in the middle of it. And I’ve got a secret, that’s not really a secret: you can be free right now.

Saturday, July 4th was always Freedom Day for our household. It was one month from my positive test, which was one week from the day I fell ill, which was one week from our loved one’s diagnosis and my son’s subsequent diagnosis. It put us at the crossroads of the sweet spot between the one month quarantine the infectious disease doctor recommended for me and the six weeks he recommended for Flynn. Independence Day was truly a day of freedom for my family. 

I’ll be honest with you again, in the days leading up to our freedom, I was scared. I was anything but free. Fear crept in. Whenever I allowed myself to feel hopeful and joyful that I could hug my daughter again for the first time in a month (we’re not counting that time I jumped down the bannister in my N95), fear stopped me cold. I began to bargain with it. As the weekend approached, I stopped even speaking about my plans for Saturday, about my joy, because, as I told so many people who asked, “I don’t want to jinx it.” 

But jinx what?! The Lord had great plans for me, to reunite my family, and I was choosing (pay close attention to that word), CHOOSING to bargain with fear instead of allowing myself to let the joyful anticipation of glorifying God build within me. I chose to live in fear the last few days of my isolation. Even the night before, my husband sang up the stairs, “Tomorrow is the day!” But I refused to fully acknowledge it.

On Saturday morning, I woke up like normal and walked downstairs. My daughter was already on the couch and I snuggled in beside her and hugged her and tickled her. I hugged my husband, the cat, and both dogs. I took a shower in my shower, not the kids’ bathtub. I fixed my own coffee. I didn’t have to wait for anyone to bring it upstairs. I drank from a real coffee cup instead of a disposable one. I ate my breakfast (that I made myself) on a real plate with a real fork, not a paper one with plastic utensils. I walked outside through the back door. I had only been using the front door because it was easier for Blake to wipe only one door down, than trying to guess which door from which we were coming and going. It was all glorious and new, yet comfortable and familiar. 

But slowly during the day, the fear crept back in. It started with a palm to Flynn’s forehead. Does he have a fever? I checked his arms for rash a few times. Might as well check Astin too while I’m at it. Palm to forehead on my baby girl, once, and again twice. Maybe it would be good if I got the temporal thermometer out and just checked them every couple of hours. You know, just to be sure. Fear brought all its overweight emotional baggage and flat out moved back in. Ugh. 

Luckily I have a husband who understands how I operate and he called me out on my freedom self-sabotage. “Why do you worry so much? Enjoy your freedom,” he told me. 

Why do I worry so much? Because I just spent a month confined to the upstairs of my house, unable to care for my family, consumed with worry for each of them. If I managed to escape that worry, I worried for myself for a brief moment, before I started worrying about them again. And if somehow I found myself not worried about Coronavirus in my family or myself, my mind would create some kind of new fear for me to worry about. What’s that weird sound in the bathroom? What’s that funny smell? Did the cat escape out that open window? (We all know our cat is too lazy to climb out a window.)

Do not let fear ruin your freedom. Do not let it steal your joy. Your freedom is a choice that you make every single day. Do not carry your prison of isolation with you into your land of freedom, even if you’re just descending the stairs to reclaim your spot on the couch for the first time in a month. Be free. Claim your freedom through God, through Jesus Christ. 

If God can free his people from Egypt, from generations of bondage, surely he can free you from fear. If he sent his Son to die on a cross to set you free, surely you can let go of that blame, shame, and guilt you’ve felt since you got that phone call that you or your loved one tested positive. The health department may have asked you to quarantine or isolate, but no one is asking you to condemn yourself to a prison of fear. 

Even while you are isolated, you can be free. You can make a choice. You may be stuck in a room. You may be confined to your house, but you choose whether or not you are free. Do not let fear lock you up. Do not let blame, shame, or guilt lock you up. You are not guilty. The health department may have sentenced you, but God holds the keys to your freedom. He’s already handed them to you. Just unlock yourself and set yourself free. 

It is perfectly okay to hope for something. The world needs hope right now more than ever. You can be that hope by refusing to live in fear. Let God help you set yourself free.

Tips from a weary mama: 

What is your quarantine end date? Write that date on a piece of paper in big, bold letters that almost fills the page. Then write words of hope and encouragement in smaller letters around that date. Now tape it to your bathroom mirror where you will be reminded that your hope, your choice to be free starts now in your heart, your soul, your spirit, and becomes a physical reality on that date. There will be no freedom self-sabotage talk in this quarantine! 

Journal: 

Before quarantine have you ever felt trapped in a situation emotionally? When that time had passed, did you realize there was actually a way that you could have freed yourself from those emotions, and thus the situation? What did you learn from that time in your life that you can apply to this time in your life while you are isolated? 

Closing Prayer: 

Thank you, gracious God, for your goodness and grace toward us, bringing hope even through the toughest of times. Thank you for your great love and care. Thank you that you are always with us and for us, and that and never leave us without hope. Thank you for the gift of your Son, calling us to a life of service and praise. Renew our spirits, fill us with your peace and joy, assuring us of your presence this day and every day; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, Amen. (John C. Bush, Decatur, Alabama)

Footnotes:

Before Coronavirus (“BC” from my earlier post), Blake read a news article that you should hug your spouse for at least 20 seconds each day. BC, he would annoy me every morning before I had my coffee and hug me as tight as he could, preventing me from squirming away, while counting as slow as he could to twenty. I’ve had more than a month of freedom from his silliness and I missed it. I was grateful for my 520 second hug on Saturday, even if it was before I had my coffee.

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