ARE YOU IN CHAINS OR ARE YOU A CHAIN-BREAKER?
Are you in chains -- or are you a "chain-breaker"?
This is a relevant question because every person and couple and family has its fetters, its iron shackles, its handcuffs, its manacles. It's part of your mission to shed these.
We're talking spiritual here.
And no doubt you sense right away what this refers to: traits and proclivities and things that constrain us, that bind us up, that stop us, that halt forward progress, that remove our freedom, that cast us into the darkness, sometimes, of a dungeon.
We are successful but we are not successful. We are happy but we are not happy. We are at peace but not really.
This means something -- a leg iron -- has to be broken.
What holds you back? What frustrates you? What keeps repeating? Where do you always find a roadblock? Make a list.
Often, it's a simple matter of having a strong will. That's a prerequisite: to succeed in this place of adversity called earth you must have an inner will that perseveres -- as the Old Testament (Psalms) puts it, a "right" and "steadfast" spirit. I'll never get that job, you might be fretting. I'll never finish this work. I'll never make this or that trip -- never get there. I'll never find the right spouse. I'll never...
That's a wrong spirit.
We get into such ruts when we should be "breaking" the bondage by saying the opposite (I will get there, I will get the right job...), waking up every morning, as a preacher once said, and deciding to be happy, deciding to have a good day (delighting even in its trials) -- and at the end of the day, thanking God even if we haven't received quite what we want, because (be it His Will) the end of the day means we are another day closer to the "desire of our hearts."
"God meets us," he notes, "at the level of our expectations."
To do that, however, takes an iron will because it is only iron that is strong enough to break iron shackles. Adversity is a gift that allows us to "pump iron," to build spiritual muscle. When we do all we can in the natural, He performs the supernatural.
If you're not, you won't see miracles, you won't reach your full potential, which means you will fall short of your mission. You are only happy when you are moving to completion of your assignment on this earth.
When we have an iron will we also have free will because an iron will breaks bondages. It makes the soul patient when the issue is impatience; calm when the issue is anxiety; humble when the issue is pride. Whatever your fault is, just will yourself not to repeat it (use that muscle). Are you angry? Just stop being angry. Force the issue. Are you slothful? Be diligent. Just do it!
List negative traits in your life and lineage and then simply don't repeat them. Only in freedom can you get back to who you really are. You don't want to be "bound on the way to Babylon" (2 Chronicles 33:11). Don't wait for things to make you happy. Get happy before anything happens and God will make you happier yet. ("Shake yourself from the dust, rise up, O captive Jerusalem; Loose yourself from the chains around your neck, O captive daughter of Zion," says Isaiah 52:2).
There are chains when we are caught in wrong emotions, when we can't seem to find peace, when there's constant fretting, when there are habits and addictions. We're in bondage when we are obsessed with anyone or anything; our focus can't expand to a wider landscape.
We may even be in chains that involve illness passed down through the family line and other such serious physical, emotional, or spiritual problems. And so we repeat the question: do you want to continue that pattern -- just "go with the flow" -- or disrupt it, get out of the flow, when the flow is heading toward Niagara?
It is best to be a chain-breaker. If there is anything in your family line that has wrapped chains around you or members of your household, break those shackles in the Name of Jesus. Set out on the "right course." Get to freedom of will.
Your purpose in life is met when your spirit is free.
It's so easy to be in that wrong "groove." Many times, members of families don't spiritually grow because it becomes Groundhog Day: constantly the same thing, the same negativities, the same conversations, day in and day out. The ball is not moving forward. There is stagnation, a broken record, and when there is stagnation, it is a mire, a swamp. We are "closed in."
We know how much snakes like swamps. Just one person bound in chains can pass darkness around and disrupt, even destroy, a household.
Ridding ourselves of negative traits we "inherited" is to do the Will of God. It doesn't mean isolation. It doesn't mean separation. It certainly doesn't mean antagonism. It means moving forward with one's chief focus and affinity: God. To break chains is to do the opposite of what binds us. It is to reconstruct. It means diligence. It means self-honesty. It means right loyalty. You break bonds when God is your key relationship.
"We face the choice every day," noted one author. "In every difficulty we can choose to create something new and healthy or to recycle the poison of generations past. We can send our children on to their own children with backgrounds of love and kindness and patience, or we can deliver them over to the same hells we may have received from our own parents."
We face this choice every day.
Never mind yesterday.
Every day, start fresh (with that joy).
As another preacher advises: where there is sin, repent; where bitterness has taken root, forgive; where there are lies in the fabric of your life, seek truth; where there are poor examples (and bad traditions) start fresh. (Bad traditions. Mull that over.)
What's the most hurtful emotion or habit you have? Do you keep it close to your chest even though it is a hot coal? Anger? Impatience? Guilt? Few chains are as strong as guilt!
Were not saints chain-breakers?
As a Miami preacher points out, monk and spiritual writer Albert Holtz related a story of wandering the streets of Toledo, Spain and encountering an interesting sight at the monastery church of San Juan de los Reyes: way up there on the outside wall, in neat rows, were curious ironwork objects about a foot-and-a-half long. They were ankle chains taken off of Christian slaves freed from their Moslem captors who ruled this Spanish city for over 360 years (until liberated by the Spaniards in 1492).
Grisly reminders of slavery.
"Yet Holtz suggests they are most appropriate hanging on that monastery church," notes this writer. "As Holtz himself said, 'What more appropriate trophies for Christians than the broken chains of their former captivity? And what better place to display such trophies than on the side of a church? After all, God became flesh, suffered, died, and rose again to free humanity from all that enslaved us. We are no longer slaves to evil, doubt, and despair, because God has loosed our bonds.'
"God is in the business of breaking chains," says the preacher.
"What if those rusting leg irons belonged not to anonymous slaves but to you and me and all the people we know and love and work with? What if those broken shackles became souvenirs of all the times Godís saving power has set someone free?"
What chains are in your life? In your family's? Why not list them. And why not bring that list to Confession and the Eucharist. Why not Plead the Blood of Jesus to break them when the priest elevates the mighty chalice?
If you go to the Holy Spirit, He will enlighten you as to whether the block is His way of turning you in another direction or it is from a personal defect (or spirit) that stymies you on the way to happiness. Pray enough and God will present you with what you want, as a gift, or remove the desire for it.
When you have done all that is possible, He will come to do the impossible.
[resources: A Life of Blessings]
[See also: Retreats: signs of the times: Los Angeles and Santa Barbara and Announcing a retreat in Louisiana]
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