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My long walk to freedom

I'm still on my long walk to freedom. Probably not all the way there yet, but I have taken some big steps toward Canaan. I'm on my way. I suppose my journey began when I got into counseling. The chain of my insecurity even made that difficult as I had to get past the stigma that comes along with therapy and counseling. But having someone to talk to and process the ministerial life with has been a tremendous gift to me. I encourage everyone in ministry to be in some kind of a counseling relationship.

The first thing that came out in my sessions with my counselor was that I needed to take a break. My efforts to keep up my "Glittering Image" (to borrow a phrase from Susan Howatch) were slowly burning me out. Chains can kill you.

My uncle tells me the story of how one of our ancestors was taken in chains from Western Africa, not understanding what was happening to him. When he arrived here in the colonies, he became aware that he was enslaved. As the story that has been passed down in my family goes, amidst the dehumanization and brutality that he was forced to endure, he never forgot that in his homeland he was royalty and he had certain marks on his skin to verify this. Once he made this known to those who enslaved him he was released from bondage because of a British law forbidding the enslavement of royalty. He would then go on to use his freedom to help others gain freedom.

In the letter to the Galatians, we read "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." Not just our own, but for the freedom of others.

I still have moments of falling into old patterns. I'm still the wounded man who lost his parents at an early age. I still make selfish need-driven mistakes from time to time. But I'm working on it. Or rather God's working on me. Leading me to the Promised Land and I'm trying to point the way for others as well.

I am not there yet, but I'm ten years closer. Freedom is in a sense a life's work. But the sooner ministers begin this long walk to freedom, the sooner their ministries can be used to liberate and free others.

Rev. Chaz Howard is University Chaplain of the University of Pennsylvania.

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