Reblogged from: SydneyArden’s Blog

What if we unleashed ourselves from the notion that we have to try really hard to be a follower of Christ? What if we turned down the volume of our Christian praise music and freed ourselves from the idea that the higher we jump during worship; the closer we get to God? What if we shut up long enough to actually hear the breath of God flowing through our lives long enough to be transformed? I wonder what the church, the Body of Christ, would look like if we truly wrestled with these questions and chased after them.

Earlier on this week, my boyfriend and I were spending some time in his back yard enjoying the sun. Lucas, my boyfriend owns a beautiful, white and black border collie named Cotton. His name is very appropriate because he is very soft and fluffy like cotton- but his beauty comes with a price. Cotton likes to shed cotton-like tumbleweeds throughout Lucas’ house; therefore he now lives in the back yard…sometimes. Cotton also aspires to be Houdini. He has escaped many a chain, rope, steel cable and fence in his time. Lucas recently purchased the strongest chain he could find at the tractor supply store and tied it around a huge tree that stands in the middle of his yard. Cotton has not escaped this one…yet! However, he enjoys running around the tree- so much so that the grass around the tree has died and a dirt racetrack has replaced the old grass.

While Lucas and I were outside, I decided to let Cotton off his chain. No sooner then I unclipped his collar from the chain and unleashed him, he was gone like the wind. He began running around and around the yard as fast as his feet could carry him. He sprinted, twirled and danced the most beautiful dog dance. He rolled in the grass, played and smiled the biggest dog grin possible. This moment was a homecoming event for Cotton. He was free to be the dog that he was made to be! He did not shy away from it; instead he hit the ground running; embracing every ounce of freedom he could find, enjoying every whip of air that caught his cotton-like coat, savoring the cold air on his wet tongue.

I enjoyed observing Cotton’s glory moment – I envied it. I had forgotten how great it felt to be freed from my chains that are so often tied to the tree that bears my fears and insecurities, obligations and responsibilities on its branches. These branches bare the heavy weight of the notion that in order to be worthy, to be loved, to be a child of God, I had to try to be like some one else. The notion that in order to be an effective Christian in this world I had to strive really hard or break my back to bring God’s glory to my life.

I have often heard the teaching that I should try to be like Jesus, that I should try to imitate Him and live as He did. This is a very daunting task to take on, because let’s be honest – he set the bar pretty high. Jesus was a fine carpenter. I am not, nor will I ever be or desire to. Nothing sounds more boring to me. Jesus turned water into wine and we all know that is pretty impossible (especially since I am underage,) but if I could that would be quite profitable. I won’t even mention the whole walking on water scenario.

I am not trying to discredit Jesus’ life at all – quite the opposite. What I am trying to say however is that I am not entirely sure I am meant to be a carbon copy of Jesus. Otherwise, I would have come out a Jewish male named Jesus. Instead, I came out a hazel-eyed American female name Sydney. With this in mind I can pursue my life with the knowledge that I can be Sydney. And just how Jesus ministered and loved God in his way, I can minister and love God with what I can offer.

If I am in correct in saying that I do not have to be a mini-me Jesus Christ, than it would most certainly true that I do not have to be just like my pastor, my church friends and family. I do not have to be sucked into the current church culture, I do not have to sing the most popular Christian pop tunes or wear the ‘Jesus is my Homeboy’ t-shirt (thank-goodness!) because before all of this “stuff” was around God’s love for me was present. My opinion is that we have made this whole being a child of God thing far too distracting and too hard.

Paul talks about his hardships in 2 Corinthians 7: 4-7.
“We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us”.

Paul’s hardships are quite different than the ones that you and I face on a daily basis. When was the last time you faced an angry mob? The closest kind of angry mob I encounter is the youth group every Saturday night that are hyped up on caffeine and raging hormones.

Instead of worrying and striving to be the perfect cookie-cutter Christian, Paul ministered in the only way he knew how. He probably did not care about what he was wearing when he was doing it either. He did not strive to prove his Christian status via a ‘W.W.J.D.’ bracelet or a cross around his neck but looking at verse 6, he proved it through purity, understanding, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit and sincere love. These things cannot be bought at Life way or anywhere else. They cannot be bought at all. They have been given to us freely through the Spirit of God that breathes through us – if only we could hear it.

We do not have to break our back to figure out or posses these six things: purity, understanding, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit and sincere love. They reside in each one of us. The only thing we do have to try to do is uncover them; to dig them out from under all the debris we have collected along our journeys. But as Paul said in verse seven, ‘God’s power is working in us’. God’s power is enough. God just needs us to throw away all the other distractions and junk that’s hanging around in our souls and allow God to work in us.

I understand that it is not as simple as it sounds. We enjoy cushiness and so we should. But we should not allow it to crush, cripple and suffocate the breath of God breathing in and out of our lives. We should not allow it to chain us to the tree of heavy burdens.

When I think about the sheer freedom Cotton felt, I envy the simplicity of it all. All Cotton knew was that he was chained to something, he did not like it very much and then he was unleashed. He did only what he knew to do; to be a dog. He did not let his bitterness and baggage of being chained to the tree hinder his freedom. Instead, he used it to only fuel his freedom dance.

Being chained to the tree of heavy burdens eventually causes death. For Cotton, it was the grass beneath his paws. For us, it is often the death of our purity, understanding, patience, kindness, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us, and our sincere love. The good news however, is that there is always a new chance for new growth. Just as Lucas could spread grass seed around that tree and nurture the grass to new life, God can nurture us back to new life.

God is constantly yearning to unleash us. In fact God already has. Some of us have just been too distracted to even notice, while others are too scared to be unleashed so they have decided to strap themselves down. Whatever the case, until we stop trying so hard to be something or someone else other than the people God created us to be, we can not run with the same kind of zeal our dear canine friend Cotton has.

So, may you be unleashed from the tree of heavy burdens and run and dance in the freedom that God has given to you. May you be unleashed to love and be loved. And may we all be unleashed to run in this freedom together as a community proving our identity with purity, understanding, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit and sincere love. Go in peace.

Sydney Hutson

8 thoughts on “Unleashed

  1. karlijo says:

    That would be VERY cool Sydney. I too have always felt uncomfortable with the discourse around living up to this perfect ideal but in the meantime dealing with a guilt trip on how imperfect, un-divine, and sinning we are, that is present in the Christian conversation today.
    Thank you for being you – you’re great as you are 🙂

  2. karlijo says:

    Thank you Sydney, I really enjoyed your post. And I like the discussion that actually, we are not Jesus. I am Karli and that’s who I know how to be, and I like Jesus and what he stood for and I want to stand for that too. But not because he ‘was’ ‘Jesus’, some dude thousands of years ago (and please don’t read that as me not recognising his divinity and purpose etc). But because he embraced the God inside of him and that’s something I want to do as well.
    Thank you!

    • Sydney says:

      Thanks for reading karlijo! It can be so discouraging to hear church organizations (which I was a part of when I lived in the UK) preach that we must reach a certain standard and try to be perfect like Jesus and then be told that we are sinners and deserve death. How cool it would be if we all tried to embrace who God made us to be individually (with all of our uniqueness and imperfections) and then join together to serve?
      Thank-you for the response!

  3. I really liked this post. I also sometimes feel that I get caught up in too much worry or in the things that chain me or bring me down. It would be great to let those things go and feel more free. I appreciated the ideas of living as a disciple, a follower of Jesus, but not feeling that I need to to try so hard to live up to the standards that Jesus (or anyone else) sets. I agree, I am not Jesus. I can only be myself and do my best to live my own interpretation and expression of the love and lessons that Jesus shared.

    Thanks for the post and the inspiring thoughts!

    • Sydney says:

      Glad you enjoyed the post ratchy! It can really be freeing to know that we are called to be ourselves and not someone else!

  4. Jimmy Bishop says:

    If Sydney Harden’s boy friend thinks it is alright to chain a dog, especially with heavy chain from tractor supply, maybe he could spend a few days chained to the same tree with his “beloved” dog.

    Very poor analogy. Shows not only some real insights but some character flaws!

    i usually forward these to the young adults in our congregation. Think I’ll pass on this one.

    Jimmy Bishop
    North Pensacola

    • sydneyarden says:

      Dear Mr. Bishop,
      I am so sorry you were offended by my writing. Please rest assure that Cotton was a very loved and well taken care of dog. My boyfriend at the time (we are now married) loved that dog immeasurably and rescued him- he was found nearly starved to death by the roadside as a pup. He was only chained for a very short time while a proper fence was installed.

      Please do not allow this to hinder the beautiful message of God’s love. May we be a community who proclaims love hope and peace rather than judgment.

      In God’s Love,

      In God’s Love,
      Sydney Hutson

    • Erica Blevins Nye says:

      Hi Jimmy,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m glad to hear you’ve been passing blog posts on to your young adult friends! I can understand that you don’t like the idea of chaining up a dog, but I’m sure you can see that Sydney’s point is bigger than that. It sounds like Sydney isn’t crazy about it either. Maybe your appreciation for her insight while still being uncomfortable with the source of her inspiration might make for an interesting discussion question you could raise with your YAs to spur some deeper exploration together.

      Sydney has been brave and generous enough to share her testimony with our readers. Please be gentle with your words and avoid deeming “character flaws” in response as she vulnerably explores her faith together with us.

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