When John Parker was eight years old He was sold into slavery. EIGHT. He was sold by His white father and would never see His enslaved mother again. I know I talked about Parker a little bit in last night's blog, but I just can't seem to get him off my mind. Despite his enslavement and tragic obstacles, John did just about everything he could to soak up all the bits of knowledge around him. At 18 he persuaded an elderly woman to purchase him after much convincing. He worked night and day- literally- until he could pay off every penny she paid for him. At 19 years of age John P. Parker was a free man.
Parker was very successful with many inventions but most interesting was his active involvement in the underground railroad. His house was right on the banks of the Ohio river facing Kentucky (then a slave state). As I peered out of the very window he perched at nightly; I began to imagine him spotting the slaves, sensing their anticipation of freedom, and rushing to their long awaited rescue. A chill ran through my body as I could almost feel exactly what he must have been feeling 120 years ago in that exact place. John would hop into his little boat in the black of night and row as fast as his arms could take him across the river to the slave state. Suddenly He would appear amidst the fog, and the slaves could now almost taste and smell their freedom as the water touched their skin. Sometimes bloodhounds would be right on their tail or head hunters hired by their owners. Seeking freedom was quite dangerous for everyone involved. So why would someone risk his own life and family for a stranger's freedom? More like hundreds and hundreds of strangers?
Many people- white and black- were fighting against the injustice of slavery by risking it all to see chains broken and lives healed. One of the more clever ways they assisted was through coded quilts that would hang on fences or lines outside plantations. On this trip I learned that these beautiful quilts had hidden messages in them only slaves could interpret. Since most didn't know how to read or write, they depended on pictures or songs to point them in the right direction. One of the coolest symbols was a monkey wrench which told the onlookers to gather their tools for physical, mental and spiritual preparation for the road to freedom. Then it hit me.
As a child I remember how important it was to memorize the bible stories in sunday school as well as some verses that were suitable for us youngsters. There's certainly nothing wrong with telling these stories or desiring your kids to remember them... but what if we began to also see each one is a message of personal freedom? What if -just like the quilt - we were able to allow the stories to teach us what true freedom in Christ is, how to prepare for the journey and where to find the path? I'm sure John P. Parker could have tried to free slaves from a safe distance, and I'm sure He could have sent some money to help or paid others to go. He also could have reproduced the quilts or beat people over the head with them..... but he didn't. Parker didn't see His freedom as a special privilege that only the smart or wealthy or "blessed" deserved. He was humbled by his freedom therefore put his life on the line over and over again so others could have this beautiful gift as well. Those he saw across the waters had been seeking this freedom down a long hard path, and now they were standing at the river of life. I am certain he was such a man of honor that he would not be able to enjoy a single day of his freedom if he weren't at least helping others walk out of their own bondage.
If you attend church I'm sure you hear the word freedom sometimes. I don't know about you but I'm ready to see this in action! I wanna see more communities of free people who are there seeking after God's face with no other agenda other than blessing the Father with their praise, thanksgiving, and sacrifice. When this happens- BAM- we are overwhelmed with what HE wants to reveal to us.... His powerful, healing, restoring LOVE. As this penetrates each area of our lives.... we begin to experience true freedom. But just like the underground railroad... we make a series of decisions that get us to that place, but God is the one that does all the breaking free! So often we can't get past our comfortable position or our paralyzing fear or unbelief. And if you live in America you have no more excuses to decide to pass through that threshold and come to God on His terms. We spend so much time and effort blaming God for what the church has done when God is not the messed up one. We are. Our spirit-man is battling the toxic world daily... and this is the very reason why God knows we need His freedom in our lives on earth. So we can walk around in the kingdom of heaven... confident in Him... and fighting for freedom in each others lives rather than fighting each other.
As a broken person, wouldn't you want to step into that community of people and be smacked in the face with God's love and walk out of that place healed and free??? If we continue to go to God on our terms, we will continue to be disappointed. BUT, if we come on His terms seeking ways in which to bless Him with our service, worship, praise, adoration and sacrifice... He will blow our socks off! It was, is and always will be about Him. He is the beginning and the end. But He loves us so much He wants us to be a part of the world's journey to freedom. Will you?
b90: (Hosea 10- Amos 5:17) It seems that a lot of what makes up Hosea, Joel and Amos are either God's mercy on Israel, their sinning nature, His judgment on them, His punishment, or His love and favor. A few days ago, I heard a pastor say, "Obedience is God's love language." And honestly I'd never thought of it like that before. In Hosea Ch. 6 vs 6 God says, "For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings." And then in Joel He says, "Yet even now return to me with all your heart, with fasting, and weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster."
My pastor in Nashville once explained it this way: First He gave a scenario of Him coming home with flowers for his wife and telling her He did it simply because He was obligated to because he was her husband. Then the second scenario was Him bringing her flowers because He loved and adored her as his wife. You see the difference? Boy, it really opened my eyes that day of how I sometimes treat God like this. How I can easily do things out of duty and sacrifice because I'm supposed to... rather than bringing Him adoration and praise out of love. He wants nothing more than for our WHOLE heart, our whole being, to return to HIM and when we do.... His presence is full of more freedom and love than we could imagine.