By Elysa MacLellan
God has been speaking to me over the last year, trying to teach me about getting out of my comfort zone and ministering to those who are enslaved by the sins of the world, struggles like addictions, poverty, and abuse. In this time, He has used to surprising sources to reveal Himself to me: the book Quaker Summer by Lisa Samson and the movie Amazing Grace. Together, these two things have opened my eyes to the fact that though slavery may no longer be legal or openly practiced in America in this day and age, we are still constantly enslaved to sins and struggles everyday.
The film Amazing Grace is the story of William Wilberforce and his peers. These men who poured out their very lives to fight against the slave trade and ultimately provide freedom to those in need. Theirs is a historically true story, a factual account of how God’s grace and power can be used to change the world.
Quaker Summer may be a fictional story, but found within the story are the much needed messages of truth. The protagonist, Heather, is a woman who has it all: a devoted husband, a great teenage son, a beautiful home, and all the other stuff and fluff that money can buy. Yet she’s empty inside and somehow all the “good stuff” she has in her life ends up enslaving her in a gilded cage.
Through a God-ordained accident, she finds herself slammed with the reality of how the other half lives. She meets Godly women whose lives are not dedicated to living the kind of life defined as “good” by American materialism, but instead to doing good to and for others. She begins to see that all the stuff in the world will never fill the void inside; this is a void only God and His service can fill.
Heather must make some scary choices. She must be willing to sacrifice and change. She must be willing to break out of her chains that bind in order to help set the captives free. Through it all, Heather learns that it is only in giving away does she really receive.
Today I am also learning this lesson and I’m finding the things I’m learning reinforced by the artistic world around me. I’m finding out how hard it is to actually live freely in a materialistic, me-centered culture filled with messages of looking out for me and my wants. It is a challenge not to totally sell out when well-meaning people are constantly warning about not being too radical.
What those people forget is that Jesus was more than a little radical and to follow Him, really follow Him, might mean looking really wierd, impractical, and even foolish in a society that makes safety and common sense gods to be worshiped. This kind of reckless abandon, the kind illustrated to me through these books and movies, the kind that shakes off what society deems “right” in favor of what God calls us to do is the only way to begin to break free of our chains.
Following Jesus can be hard. It is a path that doesn’t promise prosperity or even a long life. Its a decision that might cost me and my family everything. But I want to be willing to give it all in order to truly gain it all. I want to be free.
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Elysa and her husband Jim are living out the adventure of raising and homeschooling seven kids on a small, hobby farm in the deep south. In January, she and her two oldest daughters traveled to Swaziland with Children’s HopeChest to learn more about the HIV/AIDS crisis and how their family could be involved in ministry. Until she gets the go-ahead from God to return, she and her family spend much of their time and energy advocating on behalf of Swazi children.