You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
Romans 8:9-10 ESV
As I’ve been reading through Romans, God’s been reminding me of the freedom He brings. Paul continually tells us we are free from the law of sin and death. We are free from condemnation. We are free of the flesh. We are free to believe in Jesus and to walk in newness of life.
We are free.
Our freedom, however, is not based on anything we have done ourselves. Christ alone has set us free; salvation is a gift of love and grace, not something deserved or earned. Salvation is based solely on what Christ did when he died on the cross and rose again from the grave three days later.
Below is a story I wrote many years ago but have edited in recent days. I believe I shared the other version last year but thought I’d share this one as well. I pray as you read it you will see the truth it conveys: the truth of God’s love and God’s salvation and the accompanying freedom for all who believe (Romans 1:16). Yes. All. Including you.
Shadow of Turning by Me
A soft tapping could be heard outside my window as a cool breeze rustled the trees. I always loved the days when no one else was home. I’d always do what I was doing just then: rest on the bed, listen to the quietness, and pet my cat Teddy. I loved the feeling of his warm, soft, long-haired body leaning against mine. Even now my fingers mindlessly stroked the silky smooth black hair that overwhelmed his little body. A low rumbling could be heard deep within him, voicing his approval of the affection.
I also loved the peacefulness that would accompany these moments of feeling alone in the universe—no one to perform for—no one to be responsible for—no one to please—no one to hurt–no one…but me.
I closed my eyes to take in the peacefulness of this solitude. Yet no sooner did I close my eyes then I sensed a sudden heat on my face. I opened my eyes to catch a glimpse of a beam of sunlight protruding through the trees, shining through the window, and shedding its light on the opposite wall. My once dull crayon yellow walls became a bright yellow like that of a newly blossomed daffodil. Intrigued by this streak of light’s ability to dispel darkness, I sat up and took notice of what I saw.
Interestingly, although the light had removed much of the darkness occupying my room, it also revealed a shadow. A very unusual shadow. A very compelling shadow.
And as I stood up to face the shadow, it too appeared to reluctantly rise from its position of concealment behind my dresser. Was that my shadow? It was a person with whom I had never openly conversed or met, yet it was one of my height, size, stature—nevertheless different.
I slowly, cautiously, drew closer to the shadow. The closer I got to the blemish on the otherwise spotless wall, the more its enormity revealed itself.
When I got a few feet from the shadow, I stopped. It had no eyes, yet I sensed I was peering deep into the invisible—yet so real—soul of this shadow—this person.
I gasped as I recognized this shadow’s soul. She was fierce. Angry. Melancholy. Hurt. Alone. Her eyes looked similar to those of an unloved basset hound. Yet I only saw the eyes for a moment, for her insecurity forced them toward the floor. She was hurting.
She was I.
My inner self, with all its hurts, anger, sadness, pain, was staring back at me. She was exposed in the light, no longer hidden within. I stared helplessly back in awe. Was that really all within me? What would I do now that I was facing my inner—the real—me?
My shadow left me no chance to answer, for she moved. I stared for a moment in shock as my shadow moved toward the door of my room without me. She slid along the wall behind the bureau, around the corner toward the entryway, and, right when she reached the doorway, she stopped. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, she seemed to turn. I saw the silhouette of a finger beckon me to follow.
With much trepidation I followed my shadow. We traveled down the hallway that led to the living room. The pictures of my family were still scattered along the walls. I smiled as I saw my favorite of my mom sleeping on the couch as George, our first family cat, a main coon, slept stretched out beside her. I loved that picture because it showed how gargantuan George was; he was almost as long as my mother as she lay on her side.
I took notice of the changes evident in the hallway, however. Instead of the two doors that opened to my sisters’ rooms and the door that led to the bathroom, the hallway was all wall; it had ceased to have doors. The end—that end that I would expect to lead to the living room—was only a speck of light that seemed interminably distant from my room.
Nevertheless, my shadow and I proceeded, drawing nearer to the light. The light actually forced me to squint, for its very presence pierced the darkness, leaving my eyes fighting to adjust.
When we reached the doorway, my shadow disappeared. All that was between me and the light on the other side was the threshold. Unsure of whether I should continue, I looked behind me.
All that was behind me was darkness.
So after contemplating whether to enter back into the darkness or proceed forward into the light, I shielded my eyes and entered the light.
Once my eyes adjusted, I found myself standing in a meadow. I was alone, yet loneliness did not envelop me. My feet, bare, were hidden in a lush, green field of grass. The cool, tickling feeling of freshly cut grass on my skin sent a childlike joy throughout my body. The music of spring birds also began to take note. I closed my eyes for a moment and opened my ears to drink in the beautiful songs of spring. When I opened my eyes, a monarch butterfly, with magnificent colors fluttered just in front of me and gracefully set itself down on a honeysuckle. I breathed in deeply the scent of wildflowers and honey.
As I looked around to take in more of these Eden-like surroundings, I noticed a figure walking toward me. He drew closer, and I could see the figure was a man. There was nothing especially unusual about him. He walked confidently but did not appear cocky; I could tell he was in shape, but he was not overly muscular. His hair and other features did not appear out of the ordinary, yet something about the sight of him forced me to desire a closer look. So I began to draw near to him.
And he drew near to me.
When I was close enough to see his eyes I stopped. I was mesmerized. They were like none I’d ever seen. When I peered into his eyes, I saw this peace, this love, this inexplicable well-being. Compassion seemed to emanate from his eyes. I felt transparent, like there was nothing hidden from the man—from his eyes. I tried to look away, but I couldn’t.
Then the man reached out his hand. I took his hand and allowed him to lead me.
As we walked I noticed the strength of his hands. They looked soothing and felt like satin, yet his grip was firm, controlled, sturdy. It was like he was bold, yet gentle; a contradiction, yet one.
We stopped at the base of a small hill. While one hand was still holding mine, the man lifted his other hand and pointed to the top of a hill. On the hill stood a solitary cross. At first I didn’t see the significance of the cross, but then I caught the sight of slight, almost imperceptible, movement.
My shadow was hanging—dying—on the cross. Watching my shadow gasp for breath, I myself began to gasp for breath. Yet, as I attempted to take in, I felt myself becoming more and more empty. I was pouring myself out. My body began to tremble and I collapsed, landing on my knees in the grass.
The smell of the grass refreshed my senses, and I realized that I had lost touch with the man’s hand. I lifted my head to seek an answer for what was happening, but he was gone. I immediately looked up to the cross, horrified at what my eyes were now witnessing.
My shadow was gone. Yet the cross was not empty. The man, the man with the strong yet soft hands—the man with the piercing eyes of love—the man who saw right through me—was on the cross. He was dying.
I couldn’t move. I just kneeled there on the ground unable to change position, yet unable to take my eyes off the man on the cross. I watched him as he struggled to push up with his legs in order to gain a pinch of air. I watched as blood trickled down his face. I watched as his chest heaved in exhaustion, starved of precious life-giving oxygen. I watched when he looked at me with those eyes—those compassionate, piercing eyes—and gasped, “I love you.”
I watched him, as he died.
I continued to stare in disbelief at what I was witnessing, but then I noticed a group of men approaching the cross. They proceeded to take the man from the cross and carry him away. I was horrified at the thought of what the men were possibly going to do with the stranger who having never met me seemed to love me, so I ran after them.
“Stop!” I tried to yell as loud as I could, yet my cry seemed to go no further than my lips. The men continued to take the unknown man and place him in a tomb, rolling a stone in front of it.
I hid behind a tree until they left, then attempted to roll the stone away. I just wanted to get another glimpse of the man—of his hands—of his eyes. If only I could have what he had. It was to no avail, though. The stone would not move.
Exhaustion finally overwhelmed my body and I collapsed at the foot of the stone. I had been poured out, emptied of so much, yet I knew I still needed something. And I knew that man had it. Yet he was dead in the tomb, and I was out here. The thought of being so close to an answer yet so far devastated me, and I wept. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. It was like someone had released the dam that held back the tears of my entire life—and a flood was coming.
I don’t know how long I was there on the ground, my face buried in my hands. Yet, in the midst of my weeping, I felt something touch my shoulder. A hand. This hand, however, seemed familiar. The hand conveyed strength, but the hand poured out tender loving kindness as well. The realization of the only hand this could be sent chills throughout my body. I whipped around in joy to see the man I had been mourning and longing for. I gazed into his eyes—and they were still eyes of love, of peace, of care, of strength.
Just as he had done before, he held his hand for me to grasp. I immediately gripped his hand, and he pulled me up from the ground and began leading me to the tomb. The tomb no longer had the stone covering it, and I wondered how I never heard the stone being rolled away. It didn’t matter now, though, for the man I thought was dead was indeed alive.
When we reached the opening of the tomb, I peered inside expecting to see nothing but an empty space, for the man was now with me outside. My eyes widened, however, as I lay hold of a figure in the tomb. My shadow. My shadow was in the tomb, lifeless, dead. The man had risen, but my shadow remained dead.
I was beginning to piece things together in my mind that something in me had died today, but I was still unsure, and I still felt like something—a piece of me—was still missing. The man, most likely understanding my confusion, pointed to the far corner of the tomb. There, standing behind and to the right of my dead shadow, was another form. This form, however, was different. It did not shade the tomb; it brightened it. This new “shadow” illuminated light instead of hiding it. I peered into the soul of this new shadow as I had done my old, yet I didn’t see anger or hurt or pain; I saw love, peace, compassion, joy, freedom.
“Is that my new shadow?” I asked the man beside me, hoping it was indeed.
“It is My Spirit,” the man, whose voice was a spiritual elixir, replied. “All you have to do is invite Him in.”
Shocked yet ecstatic at the simplicity of it, I beckoned His Spirit to come, and as I began walking toward Him, He drew closer to me. When I reached out and embraced Him, the Spirit disappeared. Immediately I sensed a warm feeling within me, a newness, a refreshing. I sensed His Spirit. I sensed completion. What had been poured out on the cross with the death of my shadow and that man had been filled back up with the risen man and my new shadow—the new spirit within me.
I was whole. I was forgiven. I was free. The old had gone; the new had come.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).