Lets play a memory game. Can you remember what your childhood bedroom looked like?
Can you remember that particular poster on the wall, featuring a long-forgotten B-list celebrity? What about the decor that felt so cool at 12 years old but now makes you cringe at the thought? And, let’s be honest, there’s that one remnant toy from your pre-teens that you just couldn’t bear to let go of.
I won’t tell if you won’t.
For too many of you, it’s a trick question. Please just take a break from reading, prise your eyes away from the bright screen, blink – and describe what you see.
I’ll confess my childhood bedroom was where I found myself until 26. The walls eventually pressed in on me as I yearned for freedom, but my outward circumstances remained stuck in childlike time. It became a metaphor for other areas where I was stuck: not quite getting ahead with finances, relationships, career or just that magazine-like, carefree, 20s lifestyle I’d heard of as a distant dream. I lived with a nagging doubt that other people were ‘living’ life.
I knew one thing: if I got to the magic ‘there’, then I’d be fulfilled. I’d be free. Instead, I was stuck, stuck, stuck.
Maybe you managed to escape your childhood bedroom sooner than me, but your hoped-for adult life still feels as far away as when you were a child. Stuck, you yearn for freedom; for the life of your dreams.
God used those childhood bedroom walls to teach me a lesson. He took me to the book of Onesimus. Onesimus’s story is one of the shortest books of the Bible, but it’s outsized in impact, with a bombshell twist: who could be more stuck than a young slave?
The walls must have pressed in on him. When would his dreams come true? Yet his moment comes. He sticks it to the man by stealing his master’s money and escaping to freedom and glory in the bright lights of the big city. I can’t help but cheer him on, wishing him the best and understanding his every move.
However, it’s here my hero lets us down. Did he misuse his freedom? Did he get caught and sent back because of a rookie mistake? No, it’s far worse than that.
He throws it all in, returning to his master of his own accord. Choosing voluntarily to take back everything he ran from, and any consequences for his actions, however deeply unjust that may feel to our modern eyes.
What happened to this hero of ours? I tell you this much, I don’t believe he simply gave up. No, I believe something far deeper. The Bible tells us that he discovered an even more potent freedom than freedom from slavery.
It was in the big city that Onesimus met with a man called Paul. Perhaps it was a chance meeting, but maybe getting everything he ever wanted didn’t measure up with Onesimus’s expectations and he needed answers, fast. Paul, like the broken record he was, only ever had one answer: Christ Jesus.
Paul knew there is no one freer than the one who knows Christ. No one freer than the one who knows they are called, chosen, redeemed and filled with purpose, whatever the circumstances. That may sound like some pat answer, but Onesimus found that when the inside was put right, no location or circumstance on earth could enslave him again. No walls could press in on him. This is the message of Christ at work. It’s a message I knew in principle, but one that I needed to work out in the reality of my then situation.
Our lives could never compare to a slave, but if Onesimus could be free, how much more can we? Surely it’s this freedom that our generation needs.
There is an enemy out there who wants to ensure that we are a generation troubled by life. A generation troubled by whether we are really living it. But like Onesimus with Christ, you too can re-examine your life and despite the walls, see it shot through with glory.
As you embrace this freedom you will find an incredible rest, as the trouble seeps away and loses its power. The never-satisfied yearnings are broken and a peace will settle.
I’m no longer in my childhood bedroom and life is very different now. I urge you to still go for those dreams and hopes. But be free whatever happens.
“It’s for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and don’t let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)