Halloween isn’t the only time skeletons make an appearance. I’m convinced the skeletons that jump out of the closet at Christmas are sometimes scarier. And the older you get, the more you find out about what you thought was your semi-normal family (whatever normal is). I think growing up, the tendency is to keep the shiny smiles on for the kids so as not to spoil the “magic”. We don’t know how to talk about Aunt Susie’s affair or Uncle Matt’s raging addiction with our kids. Should we? Don’t you hide that sort of thing? You would never hear as a child of how your cousin got fired from her job because she stole scripts from the doctor or worse, how a raging mental illness nearly cost your grandma her life. The adults shuffle off to a corner and whisper the news, hoping to shield the children from the hard, cold truth of this broken world. The news that our families are messed up, and as I have learned, so is our spiritual family.
We want happiness for our families, but what we fail to understand is that real happiness is not void of pain. The Old Testament talks a lot of happiness, a state of joy. We confuse nostalgia for happiness. We continually seek the old when God is desiring the new, the present. And I believe a new kind of happiness waits for you, for me, for every woman who walks through the arms of Jesus Said Love. It’s a happiness that can’t be robbed by circumstance or the latest news of a family member falling off the wagon. A happiness that is grounded in wisdom.
“Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold her tightly.”
Wisdom and happiness are kindred sisters. Wisdom calls out to us as invitation to see clearly, think rightly, and act according to the truth. Wisdom is always full of mercy and grace, not denial. Wisdom seeks restitution and reconciliation, but not by becoming entangled in codependent behavior. Wisdom is a good judge between what is ours to handle and what is ours to let go of. Wisdom never forfeits integrity for the sake of comfort or false happiness. Wisdom is patient and is proved in the waiting. Wisdom is found in the Holy Scriptures and in the presence of Christ. EMBRACING wisdom becomes a tree of LIFE as this Proverbs says. In order for wisdom to produce happiness we must CLING to her, there is no loose grip in this equation. And God’s wisdom is able to break chains!
This Christmas, Brett and I realized with fresh eyes just how subtle the chains can look - tied around our own necks, hands, and feet. Chains our families have been wearing a long time. Every family has them, even the most spiritual ones: denial, manipulation, racism, addiction, martyrdom, mental illness, fraud, anger, lust, envy, gluttony, hatred, passive aggression, gossip... the list could go on. Some of them are chains that have “worked” for Brett and I to get along in life, but they don’t produce happiness. They are not chains we wish to pass down to our children.
The glory of Christ’s birth as sung in one of our favorite hymns, O Holy Night, proclaims:
“Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother; and in His name all oppression shall cease.”
Wisdom can read between the lines of this and discern that those we “hate”, those we deem unacceptable, intolerable, our enemies, are our brothers...our kin. They are sometimes the ones who raised us, bore us, built us, taught us, and did their best to love us as they knew how. Wisdom shows us God’s heart is always bent toward breaking chains so that we might come together. But breaking chains is not easy, it’s not magic, and it takes cooperation with the Holy Spirit. It takes honesty, grit and a level of humility that most of us hide from. We don’t want to be wrong, ashamed, embarrassed and so we hide.
The women you helped through ACCESS this year and through our outreaches across Texas are breaking chains of their own AND in their families. And let me tell you, the ties that bind them are strong. One of our friends shared with us that she doesn’t remember a single woman in her family who was not a prostitute. She is now out of the life and choosing a different path for she and her son, her Boaz. She is breaking chains. She will be clinging to wisdom and fighting for a happiness that cannot be taken away. Another of our friends has been exploited by her family since childhood, she didn’t know another way but to succumb to being used. She is now learning boundaries and how to discern who has her best interests at heart, and who is using her. This is breaking chains for her life, and her three children. Another of our friends is choosing a recovery home indefinitely to begin again and raise her child in, she knows that trying to “do it alone” is a recipe for failure. She is breaking chains of selfishness and addiction by living in community and raising her son to walk in the wisdom of God.
We ALL have chains to break. Jesus didn’t simply come to theoretically set the world free, He came to set YOU free. You and your family. We are committed to breaking chains here at Jesus Said Love, in our own lives, in those we reach, and in culture. We very literally believe Christ can do this for us, and with us. Would you consider giving monthly toward Jesus Said Love in 2018 to help sustain our efforts in awakening hope and empowering change? Every gift empowers us in breaking chains.