The Gift of Freedom [My Story, Part 7]
Last week I told you about some of the miraculous events that took place for me to be able to go to Germany for Bible School. I still can’t believe it, when I think about it – It was all too perfect! But so wonderful, and so good. God is able to do amazing things! And the best part is, it’s not hard for him. Not at all.
Today I want to share a bit about my time in Germany. To set a proper framework, I think I’d better share a bit about where my heart was at, going into this time away.
Bible School appealed to me so much because I had a hunger to learn more about the Lord and to understand a greater depth of his word. At that point, I had already read the Bible on my own several times over, but still – There is so much depth in there, I wanted to go further, and I wanted to understand more. So, going for the opportunity of learning was enough to propel me forward! The idea of travel to Europe also appealed to me – From the time I was 12 years old, I remember thinking I wanted to go to Europe; a desire that grew and grew as the years went on. The thought of going to Bible school AND being in Europe was almost too magical to imagine that I could reach for it – but here it was, within my grasp, and it was put there only by the grace and the kindness of God.
The desire to go to Bible school began in me when I was 18 years old, 5 years prior to actually seeing it happen. At that time, believing it would never be possible for me to go, I prayed, “Lord, you can teach me everything that I need to learn here; you don’t need a Bible school setting. Teach me everything I would have learned at school here at home– And help me to be a good student.” Those 5 years were some of the hardest of my life to this point, spiritually. I felt like I was going through a great “Purge” of sorts – Like the words of Jesus in John 15* were really playing out in my life. I didn’t feel like I was learning so much, necessarily, but I felt like the Lord was identifying things in my heart that needed to go, and “Pruning” them out of me. Things like envy, selfishness, pride. Things I still have a lot to learn about losing, but in specific areas, the Lord was teaching me to humble myself, and it was very difficult.
When I set out for Bible school at the age of 23, I was just starting to come out of the heaviest part of that season. I felt “Cut back to nothing” in some ways – but ready for a new beginning. I spent the first few days of my trip in Austria, being blessed (ABUNDANTLY) by my brother-in-law’s family. There, I remember hearing a sermon about giving, and how everything you give is ultimately to the Lord. I asked the question in prayer, “Lord, what do I even have to give?” I felt like I really had nothing; everything I’d worked for seemed to be nothing in that moment, and everything I was seemed so small and helpless. Yet, here I was being GIVEN so much, both in my trip to Germany and during my time in Austria (that’s another story of God’s provision). What did I even have that I could give? I felt so empty handed. In the car, on the way to the school in Germany, I remember “Hearing” an answer to my question – Not in words, but in my heart, the Lord instructed me: “You give what you’ve been given.” I wasn’t asked to give what I could create, earn, or come up with – Only to share what had been generously given to me. He was the giver; I was just supposed to share what wasn’t really my own to begin with. My heart rested in that thought.
Bible school began with the warning of an expectation that this time can be very difficult for some people: That when you ask God to work in your life, he will. And it can be very uncomfortable. And, pretty much, the scenario of the last few years “Pruning” was described – that the Lord will graciously, lovingly teach you what needs to go – so that better things can grow up and flourish in your life.
So, while many around me began to walk through a “Pruning” season, I was realizing that the Lord had faithfully begun to do what I asked of him years before. He didn’t need a Bible school to teach me to turn away from the ugliness of my own selfishness; he began that lesson in me at home. And then, he began to build on that with more lessons of grace at school.
I say this because it’s so wonderful to think that you don’t have to go to the right place, meet the right people, say the right things, or have enough money to encounter Christ and have him change you forever. He meets you where you’re at, with all that you do and don’t have, and he changes you. He has all you need, and he supplies it. And he knows what you don’t need, and removes it. I’m thankful that he is so wise.
I experienced the freedom of belonging to Jesus in a whole new way in Germany. Until that point, I didn’t know that it was possible for me to cry, and I mean cry, because the joy and goodness was too much– but somehow, it was. It happened to me, twice! The Lord took the cut-back stump of a person that was me and began to grow up in me NEW life – flourishing, green, good life. And let me tell you, there is no feeling like it in the world. To be released of so much bondage (and yes, selfishness is bondage) and given the gift of truth– That is an experience of freedom like no other.
I thought it was interesting that the theme for the women of Bodenseehof that year was “Freedom.” How perfect, I thought. This was a year of freedom for me. One verse that stuck with me from that year was Galations 5:1 – “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
Toward the middle of my year at Bible school, I began to realize that this unique time of my life had hit a middle point, and it was no longer stretching out in front of me as a long commitment away– it was now headed toward the end of its time. I was okay with that, though. This time away had been such blessing, such a rich time; but, I knew it wasn’t something that would last forever. I missed my family, and although it would be hard, I was ok to say goodbye. I was ready to go home.
It was right around that time that I was asked, by the staff at Bodenseehof, to come back… For two more years, to be on staff at the school.
Long story short, I said yes! And next week, I’ll talk a little bit about that.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
To Be Continued…
Side note! Check out this massive piece of Black Forest cake I ate in Germany’s Black Forest. That thing was as big as my head – and since I have the pictures to prove that I ate it all, I thought I might as well share them. 🙂
Back next week! Or at least, so is my plan.