Free of Me

Nothing is left untouched, unconsidered. These are the words I wrote at the top of my journal as I was remarkably thankful that our pastor was walking through Daniel 4, highlighting the seductive pride that doesn’t just befall Nebuchadnezzar, but all of us, and that I had the newly released “Free of Me” ready to read that very night. It’s like God knows exactly what He is doing.

On the way to church, I was processing with my husband a lot of the turmoil I have been in these past few months. I had turned introspective, which in some instances here, is a healthy thing, but was asking a multitude of questions that I felt I lacked clarity on due to potential blind spots. James, my husband, met me with a blind spot I didn’t expect. He simply stated what seemed to be obvious: “you have placed your identity in a person, allowing her to dictate your emotions, your day, even your calling. You have an idol.”

Although it stung, it rang quite true. I was looking for approval from someone other than Christ, and I wasn’t receiving it. I had taken these many wounds received instead as a curse, a marker to further self-deprecate and question. I have taken this season, this desert, and looked forever inwards and camped out on begging God for signs, miracles, answers. This wilderness doesn’t have the appearance of haughtiness, and yet, I was dripping in it. Instead of seeing this as a sign that something may have to die, I have cradled it in my arms, covering it in gold, and prayed for it.

We walked through this passage where we are met with the ego-maniac that rules over Babylon, the downfall that follows his ridiculous pride, and the gift of restoration, resurrection, found in this mere man's life.

At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,
for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”
At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
— Daniel 4:34-37

It stuck out to me like a sore thumb, the change of this prideful man seen in the words, “lifted my eyes to heaven.” It’s a tendency to disconnect, when we see something that we can’t fully understand in Scripture, for instance, the Israelites and their constant complaints when we know nothing of actually being thirsty in a desert (and didn’t you just a chapter ago walk through the Red Sea?), to not see what the Spirit may have for us here and now. We are worlds and cultures away from understanding, and yet, these words were given to us.

The answer to Nebuchadnezzar’s pride was not to boost his self-esteem while this dream was saying something otherwise. It was I AM. It was no longer introspection, navel gazing, but acknowledging the God of the Universe, lifting His eyes.

God has a plan infinitely bigger than our self-esteem. Our healing is only one piece of the puzzle, so we cannot settle for a gospel that has ‘personal satisfaction’ at its core. It’s counterintuitive, but this me-centered gospel cannot give us what we want. It only makes the burden bigger and our faith smaller.
That’s why God calls us into a bigger story. And strangely enough, the bigger story will give us the joy we seek. When we stop living for ourselves and live fully focused on God, we will encounter freedom and lightness like never before.
Of course, this is about more than living an abundant life. It’s also about the world, which needs the gospel now as much as ever. As wars rage, children are trafficked, families go hungry, and darkness runs wild, the world needs people full of courage, conviction, and action. And the enemy knows this, which is why he does everything in his power to keep us out of the mission and focused on ourselves. He paralyzes us with lies and insecurity, and sometimes he even enlists the church into his scheme. As long as he can keep our focus inward, he enjoys a minor victory.
Thankfully, we don’t have to choose between fulfillment and self-forgetfulness, or between the abundant life and the obedient one. We can have both in Christ. So I invite you to embrace the freedom of this bigger story. Don’t settle for a focus that is partially about Christ but mostly about you.
— Sharon Hodde Miller

It is not as if tomorrow you will find me eating grass on all fours, but when I consider myself as in control, shaking my fist, full of pride, I may as well be. The answer is to look up, see Christ high and lifted up, accept the gospel in its fullness by dying. Praise Him, give thanks, whether through tears of pain or joy, and watch as He comes to make you whole.

Today is book release day for the above quote, “Free of Me” by Sharon Hodde Miller. It has been a joy to read her book, to be reminded as the Spirit continues to prod my selfish heart to see Him in order that I may see clearly. He is the clarity we seek.

Bind my wandering heart to Thee.