Recently I was driving down the interstate and saw a truck carrying poultry. Open-air rows were stacked to the brim with wire cages. My curly-haired dog, Willow, and I were heading west from Nashville, and she was eagerly pacing across the back seat from window to window. She eyed the birds and sniffed at the glass but didn’t pay much attention. Our destination was a friend’s farm for an afternoon hike, and Willow’s mind was on freer spaces.
Some days, I feel like one of those birds on the poultry truck, barreling down the highway atop some noisy eighteen-wheeler. I pondered this as we pulled off at our exit. Minutes later, parked out by the field, I opened the car door to let Willow joyfully launch her short legs outside. She sprang, nose to the ground, tearing around the green grass in great, circular victory laps. Our dogs don’t complain at home about our postage-stamp-size city yard, but the thrill was evident as this pup was unleashed for a few hours of bliss. I think we were both made for the open fields.
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free,” Paul reminded the Galatians (5:13).
I need Paul’s reminders. I feel a disconnect between the true, spiritual reality of my freedom in Christ and the ups and downs of how I experience it. It’s as if I keep climbing back into a cage like a lame bird on a poultry truck, back into the same old confining circumstances again.
It’s not that I mean to willingly climb back into frustration. Some days I wake up and I’m not sure how I got there. Sometimes I find myself there when I’m sad or confused or stretched beyond my limitations. And sometimes I’m just stubborn and choose the old ways.
But we are not made to be bought and sold and disregarded. God did not design us for suffocating spaces. We have great worth. We are made to run in the fields, to seek the treasure that God has hidden out there, even as God constantly seeks after us (Matt. 13:44).
By faith in Christ, the dingy container of our sin and sickness has been opened. Though we may at times still feel confined, the doors of our circumstances are no longer locked. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who calls us out through the gate (John 10:9). He calls us out like Lazarus in his grave clothes, to rise up and to run (John 11:43–44; Mark 2:5–12).
Early this year, my husband and I were planning some dates for family travel, hoping to get away for some adventures. We threw our hands up in frustration after not finding much flexibility between work schedules and various commitments. Two or three days of overlap were all we could come up with.
The stress and limitations of life constantly threaten to close us off—from those closest to us, from fulfilling our deepest desires, from loving those God places around us. Our time seems to be confiscated, separated into tiny pieces, and handed back to us like cheese slices at the deli counter. How do we maintain wholeness in the ordering of our life together?
In Mark 7:31–39, Jesus rolls into the region of the Decapolis and heals a man who can neither hear nor speak clearly. I am compelled by the description of this man who was deaf and had a speech impediment. Some people brought him, “and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him” (v. 32). Jesus heals him with a compassionate sigh, touches his ears and tongue, and speaks the word ephphatha, which means “be opened.”
“Be opened!” he prays. He prays for our healing and wholeness. For our freedom.
For me, to read these words is to remember seeing Willow take to the fields. To remember Olympic track runners at the starting gun. To remember a baby’s cry after the first breath. With Jesus’ healing command, we open to the glory and promise laid before us, which the King of glory ushers in (Ps. 24:9).
Some days I feel like the bird in the cage, and other days I feel wild and released. “It is for freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). While my experience may fluctuate, my freedom is secure in Christ, who is the key, the open gate, and the one who calls us out to the fields.
Sandra McCracken is a singer-songwriter who lives in Nashville. Follow her on Twitter @Sandramccracken.
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