I woke up feeling like something held me in its grip… tight.
We’d been enjoying fall break as a family… unplugged time in the mountains with plans only to eat, sleep, read, and hike (and take turns playing with our 2-year-old). It had been a great week with some beautiful moments and conversations.
But on our last morning I woke up ready to tear something apart. The cabin was too small, the mess was too big, the 2-year-old too demanding. My little guy had been up several times in the night, standing up in his pack-n-play beside our bed and demanding everything from lotion to a matchbox car to pizza. At one point, after succumbing to his demands to get in bed with me, he threw his blanket in my face. I threw it back at him. We did this several times. It got that bad.
I was being held captive by a really, really bad attitude. I was literally acting like a 2-year-old. If I had taken a minute or two to keep reading through Mark like I had every other morning that week, I would have recognized myself in Mark chapter 5. The demoniac possessed by an unclean spirit called “Legion,” the woman who had suffered from a bleeding disorder for 12 years, and the little girl who had died all bore a resemblance to me. They were all being held tightly in the grip of something that would not let them go.
Each of these people encountered Jesus and each was set free, immediately. I wanted that, but could not figure out how to get there. I couldn’t see past my own entitlement to a peaceful morning in the mountains.
So I threw blankets at people and sighed dramatically and complained loudly inside my head. Finally, most of the family cleared out and I looked around at the mess that had to be organized and packed in a little under 2 hours. I was grateful to be alone, even if it was a several-person job. At least I could let my attitude run its course without embarrassing myself in front of everyone.
Then the Spirit led me to make a decision that changed the course of my morning. I plugged in my old iPod and played a worship playlist I created a long time ago. I began to sing the words under my breath as I sorted through the clutter. Then I began to listen to what I was singing. Then I began to feel the change in my heart, the slow loosening of the grip that held me. And then I began, slowly, to feel grateful. So, so grateful that things were changing. That I was changing.
When I sang the words to “In Christ Alone” by the Gettys, I broke. I realized in real time the truth of the words, “sin’s curse has lost its grip on me.” As I kept packing and singing, I began to realize the amazing truth of the gospel yet again. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, I am no longer a prisoner. The curse of sin, truly, has lost its hold. I may be giving in to a really, really bad attitude, but the astounding reality is I don’t have to. Christ has loosened the grip. The grip that felt so tight when I woke up was rendered powerless in the face of my repentance, worship, and gratitude.
I see people in Mark 5 who are in the deadly grip of something stronger than they are. I know people in my life in similar vice-holds. Though I belong to Christ, I, too, sometimes wake up in what feels like a prison. The prison of my own sin. The sin of entitlement, impatience, self-centeredness, and self-worship. But because I belong to Christ, those prison doors are not locked. I can get out because Christ set me free.
Maybe the next time you’re giving in to the imprisoning grip of sin, look around for the Spirit. Follow his prompts. He’ll show you the way out through the gospel. Through worship and gratitude. The good news of the gospel rescues us again and again.