Unbind Her and Let Her Go!

March 17, 2014

The evening after my lung surgery I was tethered to my bed. No, I wasn’t handcuffed to the bedframe, but I might as well have been. There were nine different ties holding me down: automatic leg compressors wrapped around my calves, a surgical drain from my side, a catheter, a blood-pressure cuff, five leads adhered to my torso for the EKG and respiration counter, an IV in each hand, another PICC line, and an oxygen thingy stuck in my nose. These various input and output devices gave medical staff signals as to my wellbeing and access for treatment. Through them many aspects of my bodily functions were kept in balance. I am grateful for each one. But I was captive.

Tuesday morning, now sans the catheter, my big field trip was the few steps to the bathroom. But this required unhooking, unplugging, and a nurse in attendance to keep remaining tubes and cables from getting tangled. Quite a sight I was, I and my entourage.

The surgeon visited after lunch, took one look at me, and decided it was time to get me moving around. She ordered all the paraphernalia detached and removed, everything but one IV line. I felt like a prison escapee, and plotted my route out of the hospital.

No, really, what I thought of was Lazarus called out the grave by his friend Jesus (John 11:41-44). There were a few minutes there between Jesus’ invitation to leave the grave, “Lazarus, come out!” and the command, “Unbind him and let him go!” In those intervening moments, Lazarus was alive, healthy, and yet tightly bound by the grave cloths. To get on with the new life Jesus had just handed him, he was going to have to be untethered and let go, but he needed help to make that happen.

There are, of course, many things that tether us physically, emotionally, and spiritually in day-to-day life. I think of hunger, vengeance, grief, greed, and addiction for starters. A fixation on the past can do it and fear of the future even more. The fact is, our human condition without Jesus Christ is enslavement of one kind or another and certainly in sin, until we are redeemed and transformed by our Savior. Only then do we have complete freedom, the freedom to live righteously in unhindered fellowship with God. A personal examination, with the help of the Holy Spirit, can lead to an awareness of the bindings gripping our soul. And then, as the writer of Hebrews exhorts, “ . . . let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us . . .” (Hebrews 12:1). What a joy it is to run with abandon after shedding one’s backpack, and we certainly don’t want to be hindered by shoelaces tied together! Jesus says removal of these weights and hazards is something we can do, with the encouragement of the saints in community around us. Jesus himself lifts the burden of sin and empowers us for the new life we have been given. Why would we want anything less than this kind of joyful freedom?

The Church would do well to address this question also. Corporately, our churchly organizations are tied up in red tape, preventing missional entrepreneurial efforts. Our denominations (I’m thinking now of my own, the PCUSA, but this applies to all the Mainlines) are shackled by histories and traditions that major in form but not necessarily in substance. (By saying this, I am not dismissing our wonderful, orthodox, biblical heritage, but only the trappings of “a form of godliness without the power.”) We must repent of greed, as evidenced by some of the misguided money-grabs associated with “gracious dismissals” from the PCUSA tribe.

At the local level, congregations are way too attached to their buildings and not as attentive to the condition of their spiritual tabernacles (1 Corinthians 3:16). Our faith often extends only as far as the dollar figure guaranteed by pledge cards. Tickling the ears of donors or squeaky wheels in our congregations can lead us to trust in their benevolences and forsake our first Love (2 Timothy 4:3; Revelation 2:4). The dangers of entanglement are everywhere, but Jesus’ voice, if heeded, will lead us out of those dead ends and into liberated and unhindered communion.

And finally, it has to be said: sometimes it is just plain harder to live freely in Christ than to be restrained by legalistic rules and regulations, traditions and “we’ve always done it that way” precedents that require no thinking or real choosing. Luther commented on this dynamic in his monograph “On Monastic Vows”: On the one hand, it is nice to have things handed to us on a silver platter as a benefit of living in a religious order. It is quite another thing to exercise our faith as a bread-winning husband and father out in the real world.

Yes, at this point it is harder for me to consciously breathe unassisted than to have oxygen delivered into my nostrils; but what is harder is what is necessary to strengthen me to run the race Jesus has put before me. And it is harder sometimes to discipline my spirit in prayer and feasting upon God’s Word, than it is to be a passive consumer of spiritual therapeutic deism. But Jesus says, “Come out of your grave! Hey somebody, unbind her and let her go!” so that I can walk of my own volition toward Christ and offer myself as “a living sacrifice” in service to my Lord and Savior (Romans 12:1). As the Spirit keeps working in me, this freedom in righteousness will become more natural. I pray for that day in joyful anticipation.

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4 Responses to “Unbind Her and Let Her Go!”

  1. emd5542 Says:

    Amen, Sister! And may all who have ears draw near and listen! Then may we all step forward in trust and obedience by the power of the Holy Spirit according to the Word of God.

  2. Terry Says:

    Mary,

    You found just the right words to graciously describe the beauty and the paradox we encounter when we live into the freedom of following Christ.

    Terry N

    >

  3. Peggy Bell Says:

    Rich, real and right. Let’s get on the same page washed clean from every sin, filled with the Spirit, praying, interceeding, working and proclaiming the Word.

  4. tomcundiff Says:

    I appreciate following your spirit-filled words of hope and encouragement ….

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