Rising Without The Chains
Written by: Julie Bartlein (mask unveiled)
Choose ME for I AM
“Shame brought me here,” I whisper, inaudible to human ears. I see the hoarder mess within these confined walls. This lift is closing. The basement is cold, but I see the elevator and its reflective metallic wonder calling my name.
“No, child, I brought you here.”
“Papa? Why can’t I see you?”
“Daughter, you will see me when you are ready. I have always been here.”
“These chains are pulling me in the shadows, Papa. They are heavy. I am weary. And yet leery of letting their weight fall. If the load drops, I won’t have the strength to pick it back up and keep walking,” tears streaming down my face in exhaustion. I am unwilling to give up control, and control is killing my temple, killing my soul.
Shaking His head, eyes filled with love and tears, “Sweet one, beloved one, chosen one, let me carry this burden for you. I AM. You weren’t meant to be on this journey alone. Believe. Choose me,” He whispers in my head.
Those shiny doors open, and I drag my shadows, bound by chains to the sinew of my worldly being, with me through those light peaked doors. “Papa, are you still here? Can you still hear me?” I call out fearfully hopeful. I used to hold a sign up that read ‘Let Thy Faith Be Bigger Than Thy Fears’, but I lost that in this hoarded pile of chains months ago.
“Daughter, oh, my beautiful daughter, Sister of Christ, will you choose me? Will you let me care for you as no man will ever be able too? I AM. Remember what I told Isaiah? ‘So do not fear for I am with you; do not be discouraged, for I am Your Papa. I alone can strengthen you and I alone can help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand…or left if you prefer, as I made you uniquely bent left,” I feel Him smiling in that moment, and a smirk appears upon my face.
Being left handed always seemed a burden. I did everything backwards, and those nuns were always trying to change my bend. As I drag the last bits of my chains and shadows into the elevator, so bright with a promise of rising, I hear Papa’s laughter. A chuckle that begins to roar into the belly laughter of a tickled child. I cannot help but broaden my smirk to a smile, and snuff a tittle of air myself. I know now He let me choose to learn to embrace my quirk; He helped teach me how with His righteous right hand.
“Why does this burden feel lighter, Papa?” I question as tears of mixed emotion fall down my cheeks.
“Look at your reflection, little one, do you see what I see?” The reflection I see begins to brighten, almost blindingly, initially deceptive with the view of human eyes. I see a woman’s temple crumpled over with the weight of her chains. But in a flash of bright light I see her rising, no, being lifted, by mighty hands because her reliance on her own strength is released and she reaches out her arms to be embraced by her greatest love in life.
“Papa, I see you. Why cannot I not feel you?” hopeful tears streaming now, I realize now I have to choose to lose these burdensome chains and lay them at His merciful, graceful feet.
To lay these chains down means I must give up the “friends” I made in the shadows. These friends who lie to me. Who deceive me. Who judge me. Who weigh me down…
“I see your struggles wee one. There is a battle going on around you. These chains you have bound to you are attached to evil. Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy. These are his friends, child, not yours. You only need say My Name, Jesus, and they will be moved. Choose me, beloved. I am safe. I will never forsake you. I already forgave you,” Papa’s gentle voice nestles in my most vulnerable spaces.
The elevator begins to rise up. One floor at a time. Twelve floors? Will I ever make it?
There’s a reckoning happening. These chains are pulling me apart, fighting to be bound, from being released. They want me stuck in denial and isolation.
“Control, I reckon with you first. You must be freed.” I stare it down, unafraid, in this moment, of the consequences, and release my knuckle-whitening grip. I hear the chain lift and rattle and Control tries to lasso me back in, but Papa shields me from its hold, and I am no longer bound. Is this the feeling of freedom? Is this agiler movement up what I have been missing? Yes, Papa, I choose you, take this chain, this frenemy, and do as you wish.
“Shame, I release you. You were never my friend. You made isolation tempting and you kept me from the truth. You no longer have a hold in this life or the next. Your weight is unbearable, and holds me back,” I stutter as I struggle with Shame’s heaviness, and buckle to my knees, “Papa, do not just take this chain from me, break it.”
He abides and obliterates any evidence of my old friend’s existence. Light filters in the darkness, and my reflection begins to brighten. Is this the feeling of belief? Of lost faith finding freedom? “Papa, keep it coming. I’m finally listening. Quietly, mournfully listening to understand. I choose you,” I mouth silently. I can breathe for the first time since birth. I realize how fallible we all are and my heart swells with struggle born pain and love.
“My baby girl, your gifts have always been empathy, and discernment. It pains you because you see others’ pain. You hold on because you want to control the pain. Take their struggles. You know their pain and their strongholds, but, baby, I AM. Give them to me, these people you love so dearly. I am your strength. I am their strength. This battle is not yours alone to fight. I AM with you, I always have been. I AM patience. I AM kindness. I AM your seen and felt love. Only through me can you truly be seen. Keep choosing me. I AM here. Always. Let me take the helm and keep rising, sweet child of mine.” His gentle coaxing is soothing.
I am rising like a phoenix out of the ashes. And so will you.
Shadows Behind the Chains
“Papa, I have so many more chains buckling my frame. I’m begging you, on my knees, please give me back my sight,” I mournfully pray as the elevator begins to rise. The tears begin streaming steadily down my delicate cheeks, soaking my shirt, and slithering, like a conniving snake, through every link as if Satan’s joy is amplified with each stolen droplet.
The darkness I dragged in, that I cling to as if they were family, are echoing in the suffocating emptiness within this locked vessel. And then the lift stops. Darkness swallows the space and in my panic I hear Papa coax me out of my fear, "This is Powerlessness. Do you feel powerful without faith? Do you feel helpless without me? Will you listen now, take my hand, and let me show you life, little one?" as my knees buckle under the weight of my sin. My mistrust. "LET GO, and LET ME!" He audibly commands me out of my sleeping stupor.
"Papa, what does that mean? How do I let go? What are the boundaries? Where does obedience lie with wisdom?," I realize I am bargaining back the chain of control and clinging more tightly to this chain of disbelief.
"Child, listen. Be patient. My timing is best. Give me your time and your patience and I will abundantly multiply it with awe-inspiring fruit. Let me be your strength. Stop holding on to your weak, fleshly-body and cling to me. Obedience and wisdom are the essence of patience and faith. There are no boundaries when obedience meets wisdom, and faith and patience are born, do you understand?" I hear Papa's firm rules with the stretch of an elastic rubber band twanging in my head.
"No! The rules are too rigid. It hurts to the point I cannot breathe the air you give. I know I have been disobedient. I confess as you command, and yet the excrutiating struggles remain. Why can't you make him see and understand? Someone once told me You will make my suffering so great in a situation that it will leave me no other choice than to let go and walk away. Is this true? Or is it that by not following you I have accepted this suffrage as a mother accepts the labor for her new born child? Because I lacked faith in You? I was too arrogant and believed I could be a savior," I contemplate as a tender caress of my heart builds into a merciful hug.
A light flickers within the lift beneath the plastic covering of the button with the number 2 written on it. I am powerless but I am not helpless.
"Yes, beloved one, yes, you are powerless but with me you are not helpless. I do not wish you to suffer, nor do I create the situations to prolong your suffering. But, I will use it to teach you; refine you; recreate the image you have of yourself and show you who you really are in my eyes. In my light. Do you want to see? Can I convince you to truly see who you are, the way I see you? Will you believe me? LET GO of that victim chain, the mistrust! GIVE IT TO ME!," and though I hear righteous anger, I feel love.
This dichotic mix between facts and truth is a reality I cannot wholly grasp. Feelings and emotions are irrational and fleeting. My Father is eternal, steady, forever holding the hand of the small child within fighting for fleshly freedom. This frail child is running away because she forgot what trust felt like.
I drop the chains.
"No more bargaining. Take this martyrdom and help me grow. I no longer wish to be just a sapling in your garden, Papa."
"Finally," He sighs, and though I cannot see His smile, He presents tangible affection with a touch of peace. "Press button 3. Do not question me now. Let's rise up together. This battle will not be won quietly, and I will not leave your side. Trust in me, always, no matter how dim it appears to be, know this: I have already won the battle for you, if and only if, you continue to TRUST IN ME. Listen, take my hand now, and rise with me." He commands me, and as I obey, light invades the darkness once more, the stirrings of mechanics awaken, and the lift begins to slowly rise again.
I am no longer stagnant. I am no longer bound. I will stand firm, with courage, as Papa shows me who I really am. I know this war is not won yet, but I now have faith I will no longer be abandoned, alone, forsaken, or held captive to a fleshly imagination.
I am no longer a victim. I am His sacred choice. Battle-worn, but ready. Exhausted, yet renewed. This isn't a second chance...this is a new life.