Sunday, January 8, 2017

Finding Freedom on The Back Row

by Sarah Van Diest @SarahVanDiest

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” Galatians 5:1

It seems to me that once we begin trying to evaluate our “effectiveness” as Christians, or determine how much we must do in order for the declaration “good and faithful” to be awarded us, that it is at that moment we have lost our way. It is a moment governed by law and not freedom.

I have these moments. Law fits so well, is familiar, but is so encumbering.

A well respected man in our church came up to me last Sunday after hearing me sing as we sat on the back row. “You need to be up there,” he said, pointing toward the stage.

“Oh, no, I’ve done that. I prefer to sing from back here, but thank you,” I replied, showing all my discomfort at the attention in each body movement and facial expression I made. Please don’t look at me is the cry of my heart at times like that.

But law creeps up behind me and taps me on the shoulder. I lean in and listen to what is says: “In order to honor God and be a good and faithful steward of the gifts He has given, you need to be up there, otherwise, you are failing God.” I’ve heard this all before, many, many times. Law goes on to say, “If it is hard for you, if you find the task to be uncomfortable or unpleasant, then it is good and God will be pleased.” Law sent me overseas to live as a missionary in remote parts of China and Costa Rica. It convinced me to marry a man I was already afraid of, and kept me imprisoned in abuse for many years. Law has faithfully led me down a road that looked good, and made me look good, but law’s road is full of death.

Right now, at least, the back row suits me.

I wonder about Paul, who used to be Saul, and how he sat on the back row for a long while as he processed through his Road to Damascus experience, as he learned of freedom, the Father and Jesus, and as the Holy Spirit taught him all things new and wonderful. I wonder what those years were like for him. How strange it must have felt for him to sit and be still. But mostly I wonder what stood him up from his back row seat and sent him up to the stage again. I know it wasn’t law. You can tell when you read his words. I know law’s voice; law doesn’t sound as Paul’s words sound. Law doesn’t say, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible” I Cor. 9:19. Law wouldn’t know what to do with words like these.

Walking on law’s road won’t earn the declaration from God my heart longs to hear. I know that now and have for some time. So I’ve gotten off law’s path, though it beckons me still listing my gifts and talents, shaming me for every hour I spend not “on stage.” Though I am off of law’s road, I’m not sure I’m walking anywhere in particular. I confess that I am frequently uncomfortable here. My old ways of busyness and activity filled my moments once; I had no time or energy to ponder the thoughts I weigh today. Law told me to jump and I simply asked how high, how far and for how long. The more exhausted, frazzled, overwhelmed, and undone I became the more I imagined my God was pleased. Law paints an ugly picture of the Father.

I don’t know how long I will stay here. Frankly, I’m not even sure that’s where I am. All I really seem to know is that I’m not up on the stage right now. I think what I’m learning is what it is to be free. If I can compare my present experience with Paul’s, I guess I can comfort myself with the knowledge that he sat for quite a while, even more time than I have been sitting, and God used him mightily when the time came for him to get back on the stage.

When will I be ready to do that? I don’t know. And I don’t know how I will know, either. Nor do I know what it will look like, or even if it will ever happen.


For now, I’ll keep singing from the back row.

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Educated as a teacher, Sarah taught school for nearly 20 years. As a young woman, she lived in China amid the rice paddies and water buffalo near Changsha, and then later taught English in Costa Rica for four years and raised her two sons. 

Sarah is married for the second time, the mother of 2 boys and the step-mother to 3 more. She and her husband, David, work together in their agency The Van Diest Literary Agency. Her full name is Sarah Ruth Gerke Van Diest. She’s 5’5” and cuts her hair when stress overtakes her. 

She is a freelance editor (including a New York Times and USA Today bestseller), blogger (The Write Conversation) and writer for hire. Her first book releases with NavPress in 2018. 

12 comments:

  1. Thank you, I needed that, and at this very hour.

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    1. Honored to be of service, Angela.
      Blessings,
      Sarah

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  2. I so understand! Down South, we call that being on the shelf. I'm in that place also. I'm just resting, praying for those around me, and waiting for that time when He'll gently take me off the shelf and place me somewhere ☺

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    1. I love that, Jennifer! "On the shelf" in the back row! Haha!
      Thank you for sharing.
      Blessings,
      Sarah

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  3. Sarah, thank you so much. I needed this message, at this very moment. May God keep you in freedom and bless your singing from the back row.

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    1. Thank you, David. I'm so glad this was what you needed. Our Father knows.
      Blessings from the back row!
      Sarah

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  4. oh! how I can relate!! I'm a singer, and time was I was ALWAYS in the choir. A few years ago, Holy Spirit began to nudge me that I didn't "have to," like I was singing to prove my worship. Choirs began to morph into praise teams and my "need" to be part dwindled [was even asked to step down from one! that hurt!] I found my place of worship right where I was - including from home some Sundays!

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    1. Robin, thank you for sharing your story! It's good to have friends on the back row to serve with!
      Blessings,
      Sarah

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  5. Beautiful.Thank you--and singing isn't one of my gifts/talents. :)

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    1. Thank you, Julie!
      Blessings in whatever you do! :)
      Sarah

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  6. Even though you're singing in the back row, your voice carries forward and blesses all who hear you. You are making a joyful noise, and that is also doing what God wants you to do. Like you said, if He wants you "on stage," He will let you know. Your words have again blessed me. God bless you.

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  7. Bruce, the uber-encourager! Thank you! I'm so thankful to have you in my corner!
    I'm blessed by you!!!
    Sarah

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