“To be ignorant of one’s past is like an eagle forever being imprisoned in a cage.”
I first heard this quote in History class 25 years ago and it stuck with me so I wrote it in my journal to ponder later. I graduated from college, started my career and later started a family. Indeed life kept marching at a frantic pace. There was no time to ask life’s big questions, until September 11 happened. My soon to be 3 year old twin boys were watching Blue’s Clues. I was busy with Mom chores and looked over to check on the twins when something caught my eye on the television. A plane flew into a building… On that sunny autumn morning it seems as if time stood still and I awoke to the need of a Savior for my family. This spiritual awakening was the beginning of beauty from the ashes for me.
My church going friends told me that the pews were full again on Sunday morning and invited me and my family to services. Since I started having a relationship with Jesus, the Holy Spirit has shown me the need to examine my life and let go of some things so He can start something new. Another quote in my old college journal was “The unexamined life is not worth living” by Socrates. Could it be that God has been preparing me for the journey into my past?
One of the things I noticed looking back now is how patient and kind God has been with me. Since my ongoing Holy Spirit makeover, it became clear that I needed to examine my motivations that have gone awry. My desire for wine to “unwind and relax” became my coping mechanism and held an esteemed place in my life. A place that was meant for God. My wine addiction was one of those things I learned in my childhood. As a matter of fact, it destroyed my childhood. I was not free to grow up in a safe environment. My father’s alcoholism was loud and violent and it eventually killed him. In my efforts to escape from life, I started to become enslaved by the same chains as my father. I thank God for pointing this out to me and telling me in His profound voice, “No more, no more, no more.”
Since my sobriety, God is teaching me how to embrace all that is me. He is showing me that I do not need to escape from life anymore. He wants me to go on a journey with him and look at other lies I have been taught. He wants me to live in truth and is showing me how to live a life of wholeness that springs out of my broken past. Looking back is hard and painful work. Learning to live without anger and contempt for self and others is a process. One truth that I cling to is – freedom is not free. It costs something because it requires everything to pursue it. Jesus paid the ultimate price for our freedom from sin and death.
Questions I am faced with now in my journey: Will I be courageous and look at the lies that were meant to destroy me? Will I believe the truth that is uncovered? Will I follow God’s example and look at my sins and the sins that others committed against me and choose to forgive? Will I learn how to love myself and be kind to the little girl who was led astray? I am finding that forgiveness and love is a choice. If I am to enjoy the freedom that I have gained, I must choose to forgive and choose to love. When I let go of the negative influences that were there that kept me living small and embrace the beauty that is woven into my story – then I will truly experience freedom.
My chains are gone, I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace
Gayle Manske lives in Racine, WI with her husband of 25 years and twin 15 year old boys and a goldendoodle. Gayle finds life worth living from her relationship with the Prince of Peace. Since her journey began with Jesus, he continues to open her eyes to true abundant life.