I had a vision once. It was in black in white of a man on his knees, and his hands were shackled at the wrists with heavy chains. The only way to describe the look on his face was total defeat. As I was having this vision, I began to pray for the man. I prayed for release from his chains, and freedom from his bondage. The more I watched him, the heavier my heart felt. Tears poured from eyes, and I cried out louder to God to set him free. As I prayed, a new chain developed. It was huge, the kind I imagine would be used to anchor giant ships. This chain unraveled from the man’s chest and was led out into the darkness beyond him. I was overcome with the same defeated feeling this man’s face was clearly portraying. The weight of this chain was crushing us both. As my prayers grew silent I heard the following verse loud and clear in my vision, So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:30). It was then that I saw in the man’s pocket a set of keys and I knew, just as sure as the beating of my own heart, that if this man wanted to unchain himself he could have.

I have thought about this vision many times since I had it. I remember it as clear as the moment it happened, and I always think of it when I am feeling weighed down or trapped by something. It serves as a reminder to me that, through his death on the cross, Christ has set me free and handed me the keys so that nothing can have that power over me again. This includes any religious to-do list I might give myself, and man, am I good at that.

I need this reminder pretty regularly because I was raised in a fairly traditional religious manner by people who cared a lot about how things look, and sometimes how things actually were. I often joke that, had I been born in Jesus’s time (and been a man), I would have made an excellent Pharisee. In fact, until I was 27, I lived by my own code of religious expectations and gave myself an A+ for my hard work. However, my heart was often hard and far from God. I had received true freedom through Christ at the age of 10, but it seems like the first thing I did was stick those keys right in my purse so I could hold my own list of commandments with both hands. It was a process, but over time and through several years of therapy, I came to experience that true freedom in Christ does not mean I am free to live up to my own expectations, but that I am free from sin so that I might live according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1-4).

I did something the man in the vision never did. I pulled those keys out and dusted them off. I set myself free from the religious chains that I had shackled myself to, and I began to live in a manner of freedom I had never embraced before. Oddly enough (she says sarcastically), it was about that time I came to work at c|Life and found a group of believers that is now my community group, who walks in this freedom with me. We are tied to each other but not tied down by false religious mandates, and we walk together towards God, pointing out the freedoms we are living in, having been liberated from both sin and ourselves. We love it!

If the Son has set us free, and I believe he has, then why are we carrying around these chains? Let’s throw them off, leaving them behind us, and embrace the freedom we’ve been given to live by, and for, and with the Spirit. We are free indeed!