Strength of Woman Series, Vol. IV by Ellen Rice
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. -- II Corinthians 3:17
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me.
-- Psalm 139:7-10
If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples in deed; And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. -- John 8:31, 32
The image in this painting danced across my thought one morning while listening for answers in prayer. She was the epitome of freedom, pure joy -- the opposite of the growing fear I'd been feeling.
I felt weighed down, overwhelmed, inextricably bound by financial, emotional, physical challenges that grew with the economic downturn.
The answer was not to come in the form of holding on and humanly finding a way to fix these challenges. Again in this human journey, the answer, this free-spirited, joyous lady dancing across my mind was telling me, was to be found in letting go.
The image in Freedom is not really a woman dancing. It is oil paint, oil medium, a few brush hairs, probably some dust, canvas, browns, blues, reds, Payne's gray... It's matter on stretched canvas matter arranged by... what? Did it come from me, my fears? Impossible.
Your response to this painting is your spirit responding to the spirit of this work, put down with paint from a spiritual vision that came to me in answer to prayer.
Fear is the greatest form of bondage and it takes on many forms -- additions, control issues, relationship issues, marital failures, job or school failures, over achieving, underachieving, anger, dishonesty, wars, illness, disease... My mother-in-law used to say fear was "the devil's wedge." President Franklin Roosevelt said we have "nothing to fear, but fear itself," and in those words uttered one of the greatest truths of all mankind.
I used to travel to New York City annually for a church class. In order to do so, I had to overcome immense fear about traveling alone into the city. I battled fears of the unknown, "the boogieman," most of my life. But that particular fear was conquered through prayer and the resulting ability to let go of my fears through the spiritual recognition that I could never be out of God's, Spirit's, Love's presence, that His nature was radiating through every person I would encounter, no matter who, no matter how far or where I traveled -- even in the city of New York. The meetings were among the most joyous of my life, but if I had given in to fear instead of turning to love, I would never have experienced that joy.
While riding in NYC cabs over the years, I often struck up conversations with drivers, asking about the city. One day a cabby told me about his life and how he longed to get out of the city and the things he'd do if he wasn't "stuck" in New York. "Why don't you go?" I asked. "It's not that easy," he said. "I've been here all my life. I can't just cross that bridge and leave." Yes, he could. It was a choice.
How many of us have bridges we are afraid to cross, roads we haven't traveled, things we've never attempted, moments with family and loved ones we'll never experience, dances we haven't danced, because of fears?
Fear argues in countless ways -- that we don't have enough time, that we have too many responsibilities, that we'll disappoint, invoke anger, that we're not good enough or deserving enough, that we won't be able to get a job, that we'll lose our job, that we'll lose our home, our children's home, that we won't score high enough, won't be the best mother, father, son or daughter, aunt or uncle, that we won't make the right decisions, that we'll get sick, die, lose a loved one... We all have our own lists, conscious or unconscious.
But none of these fears truly have the power to hold us back. Just as darkness is vanquished by light, fear is vanquished by love, a spiritual quality the Bible gives as one of the definitions of God. We have the ability to turn to love instead of fear in every situation that confronts us. "There is no fear in love," it says in I John, "for perfect love casts out fear."
Beyond the atoms, the molecules, the electrons, the sub-atomic particles and space, everything known and unknown to man's science, there is a Creator of the order of the universe far greater than most of us can comprehend. And we can turn to Him and He will give us answers if we stop doing for a moment, quiet our thoughts, and listen. "My thoughts are not your thoughts, says the Lord," in the old testament of the Bible. "For my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
In the reality underlying what we see with our eyes and touch with our hands, I've experienced proof over and over that we are spiritual beings. Challenges haven't stopped confronting me, sometimes screaming loudly, but truly miraculous things have happened, and faith has been bolstered. It's so important to grow spiritual muscles, to discipline ourselves to turn first to God for answers instead of trying the human "figuring it all out" way that leads us in endless mental circles.
I work at being more diligent about catching the beginnings of fear taking over my thoughts and actions continually. I don't always succeed. It takes practice, much like the graceful, effortless looking beauty of the moves of a dancer or works of a great painter or great surgeon take practice.
Freedom is something we all possess. It is within us, waiting to be released. Let go of fear, turn to God first, listen to the music of His answers and dance! You are free!