By Kaitlyn Pianella
July 3, 2012 is a day I will remember for the rest of my life. That day marked the end of a yearlong fiery trial God used to humble me, stretch me, and grow me into a deeper intimacy with Him. My husband, SSGT Chad Pianella, was coming home from a 12-month deployment in Afghanistan with the South Carolina National Guard. We sacrificed a lot for our beautiful state and our great nation. Chad deployed ten months into our marriage, when I was four months pregnant with our first child. We found out three weeks before he mobilized that we were having a baby boy. Chad came home for two weeks of rest and relaxation the day before Titus was born, and returned to Afghanistan the day Titus turned two weeks old. He and Titus got to rekindle their father-son bond a few weeks before Titus turned eight months old.
During the deployment I struggled with others’ lack of empathy toward military families and the sacrifices they were making for others’ freedoms. My heart was cold in the beginning towards those we were fighting against, but God quickly softened it. I could have spent that year harboring anger and resentment, feeling like I had been cheated because I spent my first wedding anniversary alone and pregnant, and my firstborn’s milestones were celebrated without his father. Instead, God used all those undesirable events to humble me and isolate me so I could experience freedom in knowing Jesus as the source of my love, acceptance, worth and security.
“For you are all children of God through faith. And now that the Way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.” (Galatians 3:24-27, NLT).
Paul writes that the law was our guardian until the Way of faith came. The law was given to show us that we were sinners. The law’s intent was never to save us, but to point us to the One who would save us. It is through belief in Christ and what He has done for us that freedom is found. Once we have placed our faith in Christ, we are given Jesus’ identity. It’s like putting on new clothes. We have a new nature, Christ’s nature. We are a new creation. Therefore we are considered children of God.
Recently my beautiful state was terrorized by someone who was deeply disturbed and blinded by hate. This individual took nine precious Christ-followers’ lives in their place of worship on a Wednesday night in Charleston, SC. The attack took place four hours away from me, and I had spent the four days prior in the perpetrator’s hometown of Columbia, SC. I pondered if I could have been in the same department stores and service stations as he. He was arrested the next day, an hour away from my home. Saturday evening after the attack, my family of four and I were eating at a Chinese restaurant, and an African American lady wearing a purple shirt walked in and gave me a huge smile. Immediately, I heard in my heart, “I wish I could hug her.”
She ordered her food and sat across from my family. In the midst of our dinner my body got up, and I started asking the Lord if He was really calling me to do what I thought He was. I approached the woman, whose shirt read “The Color Purple.” I bent down and asked, “Do you mind if I hug you?” I bawled as we embraced and she prayed aloud over me, “Father comfort her heart and release her from whatever is weighing her down.” I agreed with her in spirit and expressed that He already had, and that I was so sorry for everything that had happened this week, and she whispered, “Oh, sweetie, soon everyone will know.” I replied with more sobs, “I knew you knew it was more than a skin issue.” Again she replied, “Soon the whole world will know.”
“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” (Galatians 3:28-29, NLT).
There are no more races. Skin and bloodline are no longer the issue. Who we are born of, born as, or work for does not define us. We are born of the Spirit. We are a new creation, new nation, a new people in Christ. There are only two types of people that now exist. There are believers and non-believers. Believers are those who are found in Christ, and non-believers are those who have not placed their trust in Christ. I will take it further. Just because you are “good” and do good things does not mean that you are found in Christ.
“For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace. But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.” (Galatians 5:4-6, NLT).
We cheapen grace and God’s power to redeem, restore, and resurrect us to a new life when we try to earn His favor. Freedom is found in Christ. True freedom lies in trusting that Christ’s life was a fulfillment of the law given to acknowledge our need for Him. . .that His death on the cross paid for our sin. . .that His burial and resurrection gave you His identity and His life in and through you. Just like the lady in the Chinese restaurant said, soon everyone will know. The family members of the Mother Emmanuel AME Church displayed the power of the freedom found in Christ as they graciously asked the one who had wronged them to turn to Him. Freedom found in Christ causes the military spouse’s heart to pray for other hearts to turn to Christ in the places her soldier’s boots touch.
Are you experiencing the freedom Christ came to give you? Please tell us about it in the comments.
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