By Melanie Kim '23
I used to walk around campus wearing this t-shirt I got from a church service outreach. “Freed by His love,” it announced in bold red and white cursive, against the black of the plain background. I wore it oh-so-boldly, as though I owned that phrase, as though I were confident that I knew how to live by it, how to answer if anyone asked me what it really meant.
But when I sat down and really asked myself what it meant to be freed by God’s love, I knew I had not been living by it.
I spent the last semester (and the beginning of this one) with clammy hands, leg dancing a jig up and down on polished floors, sweaty socks, hot and cold flashes, dry throat, a pounding heart. I was the walking embodiment of the list of symptoms at the end of a prescription drug commercial. And… it was happening every day.
Brainstorming ideas for a club fundraising event on the cool floor of someone’s dorm room, questioning Organic Chemistry practice sets, sitting in Sunday night Bible study, standing in a group of newly-acquainted strangers, deciding whether or not I should write a piece for the Cornerstone blog. In my English class, I agonized about saying a comment from the pages of meticulous notes that I had taken on the readings. I had it all planned out, all thought out, and yet, I wouldn’t—or maybe couldn’t—say anything. All of these situations left me with these questions: what would other people think of me? What if the comments I have to say aren't as good as what they have to offer? What if I don’t belong here? What if I’m not enough?
I chose to continue walking in my fear, forgetting who I was in Christ, forgetting that I had been set free from the fear of others’ judgement.
But what would it look like if I didn’t live in fear?
Recently, I read about Moses in the book of Exodus in the Bible. I remembered Moses as the man who spoke directly to God. A man, who in my childhood, was closely linked with the masked cucumber, Mo, in Veggietales. “Let my people go!” he would cry in his squeaky voice, to which the pickle mayor inevitably said, “No.” “Hi Ho sliver away!” Mo would squeak, performing miracles with the stick given to him by God. The river would turn red with tomato juice (it was a world of vegetables), or the groundhogs would steal the golf balls from the mayor’s private lawn. This was the Moses who, through God’s great power, split the Red Sea in two, convinced the Pharaoh of Egypt to let the Israelites leave the land, led the Israelites through the wilderness, and received the ten commandments written on stone from God. He was the man who God spoke to and said, “I am pleased with you” (Exodus 33:17 NIV).
In delving deeper into Exodus, I unraveled the other side of the story that I had forgotten: Moses was terrified. He never wanted to be in a position of power.
When God first spoke to him through a burning bush, He told Moses of His plan to rescue the Israelites from their Egyptian captors, to whom they had been enslaved for decades. God told Moses that He had chosen him to lead the people out of Egypt, and that He would perform great wonders through Moses.
But Moses was crippled by fear.
“ ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.’ The Lord said to him, ‘Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.’ But Moses said, ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else’ ” (Exodus 4:10-13 NIV).
Moses’ words sounded all too familiar — a similar plea I’d repeated to God again and again: Please use someone else. Please choose someone else to be in this situation. I can’t do this.
God gave Moses the promise that He would help him all of the way, leading him in what to say and giving him courage. Still, Moses, in his disbelief in God’s power and his absorbance in his own weaknesses and failings, refused to trust that God had the power to work through him.
In Sayles Hall, with the overhead light dimly flickering and the odor of papers and mold and some sort of tepid water lingering around the corners of the room, I held my Bible in my hands, cradled above the small rickety desk. The other freshman girls in the Bible study fidgeted a bit in their seats; I could hear the ticking clock on the wall and the drip drip in the ventilation pipes overhead. I tuned out my small group leader for a bit, absorbed in the story of Moses.
A few days later, as I flipped through my Bible and old journals, I found a couple verses on fear:
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship” (Romans 8:14-17 NIV).
Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross for our wrongdoings and failures freed us from condemnation and fear of judgement. God, in his great mercy and love for us, brought us into his family. We are no longer enslaved to our own desires, our fear of people’s judgement, and our fear of not being worthy or loved. Instead, He calls us His sons and daughters, freed to walk in life and love, without fear.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18 NIV).
God’s love is infinitely and incomparably powerful, beyond our understanding and beyond any comprehension. His love fills us up, overwhelms us with its goodness and unfailing unconditionality. His love is a love that is ever abundant and never-ending. Even in our insecurities, His love is always enough.
The courage to speak up does not need to come from me. For Moses, his courage most definitely did not come from himself. With his low self-confidence and conviction that he had “never been eloquent,” it was not through his own power that he became the leader over the Israelites. Despite Moses’ doubt, God was at work revealing his wonderful promise: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV).
I don’t have to do this on my own. In fact, I can’t do this on my own. God reassures me that in my weakness, He is made strong. In my fear of speaking my mind in front of groups, I need to depend further upon Him. I need to rely on Him for the strength, and the affirmations of who I am and what my worth is.
God, you freed me from my fear. You tell me that I am no longer a slave of fear, that I am now your child, your daughter. I am your beloved, your inheritor, your Protected one. You tell me that I am loved by you no matter how many times I fail. You tell me that you will give me boldness to speak my faith, boldness to stand firm in my ground, and boldness to be myself. You tell me that I am the Child of the one true God, that your Spirit is living in me, that I can rest in You and be held. I know that I don’t need to be afraid anymore. Help me to find security in Your love, Your promises, and Your never-ending faithfulness.