My chains fell off, my heart was free!

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freeheart

You can’t see my heart under the chevrons, but it’s definitely free.

Well, I’ll tell you something. I don’t mean to sound sacrilegious, but most of the hymns we sang when I was growing up made NO sense to me. All this business about you were so wretched and sinful and helpless, and then suddenly Jesus saved you and you saw the light and oh, how happy and free you are now. I used to sing these hymns in our Years of Exile and think to myself, “Well, if this is what the light is like, it’s a pretty low-wattage bulb.”

We always had it explained to us like, of course we were free now! We were free from the law, oh happy condition. We were free from the Jewish law, so thank heaven we didn’t have to put tassels on our garments or be stoned to death for minor infractions. And of course we were free from the error of Catholicism, thanks to famous Baptists like Martin Luther: now we didn’t have to worry about becoming nuns, or about praying to Mary and the saints. All we had to do was follow the homeschool Baptist laws about dress, diet, socialization, reading material and music. Oh, how free and happy we were now!

In other words, “We were free FROM sin, but that did not mean we were free TO sin.”

I just used to agonize all the time over not being happy enough to be saved, and wondering whether that meant I wasn’t REALLY saved, or didn’t believe QUITE hard enough and so when the Rapture came my whole family would be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air, and I would be left home alone with the electric razor buzzing in the sink. (We were allowed to watch Thief in the Night, but we had to fast-forward over the 70s Christian rock song at the beginning.) I just worried about this to no end. I certainly didn’t FEEL free, or happy, or like Jesus was anywhere close to me or paying me any attention at all.

I used to lie in bed at night and squinch my whole self up incredibly small so I saw stars, and hold my breath and squeeze as though I were trying to squeeze out a big spiritual bowel movement. “Jesus, please be real. Please show me that You are real. Please let me believe, please let me be happy and contented, show me the light. Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief.” Feeling all the time as though I were incredibly constipated.

Nothing happened. It was like pounding on some big old door that no one was ever going to come and open for me. After a while I just got used to feeling fake all the time, and at my homeschool graduation, where I wore a modestly altered bridesmaid’s dress and played the piano and gave a long-winded testimony to let everyone know what a shining product of homeschooling I was, I felt like a big old fat faker who would never ever get into the club.

(By the way, that whole homeschool graduation has basically ruined me for having a wedding forever. I handmade tons of invitations with calligraphy, we got a big cake from Costco (this was after we could have cake again) and all of my parents’ house-church friends came to watch me in my modest bridesmaid’s dress giving a big show of how holy I was. That’s what a homeschool wedding is for, right? So all your parents’ friends can see how holy you are. I’m so over that and I just would rather elope.)

Well, the rest of that story is obviously for later, because there is no point in telling the end right in the middle – but anyway, let me just say this: Homeschool kids who escape can sing those old hymns – Saved, saved! Glory, I’m saved! I’m saved by the blood of the Crucified One! – like NOBODY’S BUSINESS. We know what it feels like to be in a very dark place, and see the light, and go crawling towards it and reaching for it until ALL OF A SUDDEN you come breaking through and there you are, safe, in a warm light place surrounded by God’s love. And you can’t really believe it, and you’re so thankful.

“My chains fell off, my heart was free. I rose, went forth and followed Thee.”

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