Freedom Walk

As I was getting ready to go on a date with my husband and chatting with my friends, we were talking through making this decision: which shoes should I wear?  We were laughing about these heels I was considering for the evening. I can’t say I typically wear 3 inch heels these days (or that I ever have) but a while back I happened to find a beautiful pair of heels that fit me at a garage sale. They were the only shoe in my closet that matched the dress I was wearing for my valentine’s date, and I was seeking advice on whether to go big and wear these very-high heels. Date night had been sidelined and abandoned several times since we instated it 2 years ago just before covid-19 hit. Our typical dates look more like Home Depot without the kids. I wasn’t sure I was ready for this because that kinda heel takes practice. Suffice it to say, my daily dress is extremely casual. Some Sundays, I still like to wear my best to church because that was the tradition I grew up in, wearing our best clothes to God’s house. I love the “come as you are” atmosphere of church nowadays and value how important it is that people can come no matter how they are dressed and be welcome just as they arrive, but I still enjoy when I am able to spend extra time getting dressed for church because it’s one of my few opportunities to wear the clothes outside of the t-shirt and sweatpants category, and I feel like it helps set the day apart as special. It’s the day I go to worship together with God’s family, and it is holy. No matter what I wear it is a holy time, but like Aaron’s priestly garments that Yahweh instructed him were holy in Exodus 28, I have a dramatic and fancy side to this woman who is most often running her household in flip flops and sneakers. Yet even on Sundays, I’ve traded in anything bigger than a half inch heel for flats and boots that will be practical for teaching in the preschool classroom. Now, I’m not saying heels are holy, y’all, but a 3 inch heel will certainly have you praying not to stumble in your walk if you know what I mean. Those heels sat and collected dust until that day when I wondered: “should I buy a more reasonable heel when I have these almost-new heels sitting here? They look great… but that’s a skinny heel.” I asked my friends to help me choose between a comfier pair that were maybe not the best color (of the two) for wearing with my dress, or the garage sale stilettos. They both loved the stilettos. Of course. They were as gorgeous as they were impractical. We joked about them, and they told me to have a few drinks and I would be fine…

     Suddenly, I was given the opportunity to share my testimony with my girls, the ones I had known for many years, grown up into adulthood with, gone out and drank with in my 20’s but now in our busy 30’s I rarely see more than a couple times a year for dinner on birthdays… I hadn’t yet explained to them how I don’t drink anymore, so I shared with them how great my husband and I feel and how we have so much fun without drinking. The words were almost trying to stick coming out because the story goes so much deeper than that, as myself and my friends know well. My past with alcohol is a thick file in my memory. For them, this was probably a revelatory statement, that I wasn’t drinking anymore. I shared with them that when I really wanted to quit drinking and was having trouble stopping, I asked Jesus to help me and it changed my whole life from that point on! I am not meaning to condemn anyone who drinks alcohol, I’m talking to people who feel stuck in any way, struggling on their own, because that was me! I’m talking to people who need help and don’t know where to find it. I’m talking to anyone that hasn’t experienced the awesome transformative power of faith in Jesus Christ and the power of prayer! When my friend said “Just have a few drinks”, I wanted to give Jesus His reward.

     I had been trying to change my lifestyle on my own for half a decade but it hadn’t ever worked completely. I was beyond just wanting to stop drinking. I knew I didn’t want that lifestyle anymore but would end up having drinks in social situations or buying wine when grocery shopping, and at least once or twice a week I opened a bottle by myself while making dinner and finished it off once the kids were in bed. There really wasn’t any benefit. The fun of it had worn off long ago.  I knew how destructive alcohol was for me. I’d experienced plenty of damage in my life directly related to poor choices involving alcohol… I had stopped drinking at times in the past but it was never permanently gone. I didn’t want it to be a part of my life anymore. I didn’t want to use alcohol for fun, relaxation, or anything else. I wanted freedom and a fresh start. Even after times of sobriety I found myself right back in the drinking culture too many times before, thinking just occasionally would be controllable.

     The difference came when I prayed and asked Jesus to help me. I had heard that we don’t clean ourselves up and then come to Jesus, we come to Jesus and bring him our mess. I needed to take my struggle to him then treat it as if the matter is settled and be thankful while He works on it. I decided to try it. I asked Jesus to come lead me and to set me free from addiction and I thanked Him as if it were a done deal.  I immediately felt something brand new. His spirit rested on me- all around me and on the inside of me, it felt like peace and love. From then on, I finally began to walk in freedom! It didn’t happen all at once but every time I drank after that, I began to dislike it so much that I stopped mid drink and turned away, poured bottles out in the sink, skipped the alcohol aisle in the store altogether, and realized date nights are so much more fun and adventurous without sitting in the bars I had turned 21 and 22 and 23 in. I knew at the moment I had asked, Jesus had changed me and began a work in me. I felt a power I didn’t have before and it stayed with me. I had a new inner voice leading me into goodness and self control! I gave my life to Him and decided I was never going back to life without him because that power, that love, that freedom, was worth giving my whole heart and whole life to. Instead of struggling with alcohol that I no longer wanted around, the only desire I had was to know Him more. Things I never planned to let go of but were hidden issues as well suddenly weren’t an issue any more: marijuana and other things that I had allowed an occasional place in my life were no longer attractive to me, so I laid those down too and didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything! My desires had changed!

     I tried to give my friends the brief version and was surprised to hear one of them confess that she too had quit drinking and was enjoying life after! She told us she wanted to be her best self and it was the version of her that she is when sober. We celebrated! We celebrated each other’s new lifestyle, and I was happy for both of us… in that moment.  Then a day or so later, I began to wonder, “why is it that she was able to stop on her own and I seemed to need a miraculous touch from Jesus to be set free”? She was able to share her testimony of how she chose to stop drinking and when I share my testimony it HAS to give the glory to Jesus because I am completely aware that it wasn’t me who gave me my freedom. I worried about whether that diminished my testimony or made me seem “religious” (which speaking as a Christ following believer, is NOT a word we like to be described as). Comparison can be a killer of joy, y’all. Thoughts will try to run you over if you don’t examine them. So I took the thoughts to Jesus. I sat with him, and I prayed. I talked to my Father in heaven about what I was feeling, how happy I was for both of us and how different our situations were. I had questions about how to share my new life without becoming “that person who always talks about Jesus” but no one ever wants to hear it from or listen to. How can I share about all the amazing things Jesus has done for me without people turning away?

     My prayers have been answered in amazing ways many times, but this particular answered prayer stands out so intensely because I prayed and immediately something changed. It doesn’t happen that way every time. An answered prayer like that stirs something inside of you to keep you praying, keep believing. I kept praying and believing and now it seems I have more reasons to talk about the goodness of God than I do to complain about anything else in life! I love to share that joy. My testimony with Jesus was next to a testimony of will power and self motivation. How can I explain that it was so much more than just an answered prayer and a change in habit? It’s like, if there was a restaurant that served gourmet food and was amazing, excellent, healthy, great service, great atmosphere… you eat your meal and leave with more money in your pocket than when you arrived… wouldn’t you tell all your friends? Maybe leave them some awesome reviews online, go there all the time? Daily? Maybe even just eat every meal there for the rest of your life? Anytime somebody asked you for a dinner recommendation or complained about there not being any good places to eat, wouldn’t you share with them all your amazing experiences at that restaurant? That’s me! I don’t want people to see or hear me share about Jesus and think “Oh, she’s religious”. I want them to be enticed to Him because HE IS GOOD! He is living water! He is the bread of life! (John 6:33).  In John 7:37-38 Jesus says “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”. Jesus is so much more than an excellent meal, yet those who hunger and thirst for Him get filled! There is so much more to a relationship with Jesus than what any other healthy lifestyle change can bring to a person. With Jesus, your spirit prospers through all eternity but it doesn’t start when your body dies and you leave earth, it starts the day you say YES to Him!

     When I brought my questions before the Lord, still feeling confused and unsure of myself, I began to sing along with the song playing, “You Deserve It All”, and the lyrics caught my attention. Soon, I was lost in singing. Praise and gratitude poured out of me in place of the worry or confusion. I was thankful to have a testimony and for the courage to share it. If you haven’t heard that song before or haven’t heard it in a while I encourage you to listen to it. It tells of what everyone who puts their trust in Jesus has to look forward to experiencing: love and joy like no other that starts even before your “yes”. No matter how others receive when I share, why I share is more important than denying Him His glory and the power of His testimony in me! Who are we to know who needs to hear and who doesn’t? Jesus had done what I couldn’t! I want everyone to know that! I became so aware of the joy in my heart over that freedom! Still, it isn’t about me and my freedom anymore at all, and it isn’t a failure to me that I didn’t quit drinking all on my own! I am NOT ashamed! Romans 1:16 says: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”. My testimony is the gospel of Jesus Christ at work in my life! It is amazing! Jesus has changed me in so many ways. He has changed my life! My marriage! My family! We are definitely still works in progress, but now we are HIS works in progress and I trust Him. I have seen His victory firsthand and just as the song says: “With every breath that’s in my lungs my heart cries out, ‘To you belongs the glory!’, Through every loss or victory my soul will rise to only bring You glory!”

     It is my longing to see Him glorified! I have come to the end of myself, and it is not I who lives but Christ who lives in me! (Galatians 2:20). It isn’t an immediate perfection but it is a beautiful process and it’s the gift of the Holy Spirit in you, the same Spirit of the one true living God, the Spirit that rose Jesus from the dead, alive in me! (Romans 8:11). Jesus is how you truly come alive in spirit, soul, and body! Anytime I am tempted, that is my battle cry and my great defense! That is my joy and hope to carry me through anything: Christ lives in me! And in case anyone is wondering, Jesus doesn’t want to get drunk on weekends. Christ doesn’t need a glass of wine to relax, and so now I don’t either! He loves us all wherever we are at and little by little helps us be more like him. There is no shame in Him. If you struggle with anything, I encourage you to bring it to Him because He has your victory and all you have to do is ask and believe! I wanted to let go of alcohol and so instead of condemning me or shaming me, He gently asked of me: “Give this burden to me. Let me have it.”  He is the teacher, teaching us His ways! They are so much better than our own ways. I can trust Him with every struggle and failure and mistake because I know it’s not a quick sprint to perfection, it’s a marathon race. Just like in the song that was playing, my heart was soaring and crying out to Him: “All honor! All power! All blessing! All Dominion! Yes, It’s Yours, God! It’s Yours, Lord!”. Daniel 4:2 says: “It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me”. That is our Father, El Elyon, God Most High, and He is more amazing and wondrous and awesome and loving that anyone or anything else we could know. And if anyone is wondering, I wore the heels! I’ll be letting go of those as well. They are beautiful, but they don’t “fit” me anymore… They sure did have me praying all night, though: “Lord don’t let me stumble!”. If anyone is praying for freedom from anything, I can promise you He has more freedom for you than you even knew was possible. You might stumble, but He is there to grab hold of you and steady you. He will pick you up and put you back on your feet. If you can’t stand yet, He will carry you. Reach out to Him! He loves you and He will meet you just where you are at, in whatever mess you find yourself in. There is no shame or condemnation in being messy broken people when you know the God of all creation loves you as His child and has made a way for you to know Him and experience restoration and victory. Jesus is that way! I love yall! Be blessed!

Written by Melissa Debusk

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