This week I welcome, Christi Avant Watson to sit with us on the back porch on Rocky Top. It may be cold outside but this blog will warm and challenge your heart! Christi is my oldest daughter. She has performed on stage as an actress/singer to audiences of thousands but recently she experienced something that brought her more joy than the applause of an audience. My momma’s heart is full knowing she is learning to live on a daily basis to an audience of ONE!
Today my American passport feels heavier, and it’s not because I have an extra stamp.
Last week I sat in a foreign coffee shop getting to know a new friend. Lovely hazel eyes locked on mine from the shadow of a veil covering her hair and forehead. Her eyes were consumed with a hunger to vicariously experience my life. Why? I am an American woman.
“Is United States like the movies?” she asked in broken English.
“In what way?” I responded.
“Can you go where you want? Can you do what you want?”
Linguistically, I understood, but I also understood like a woman in the dark understands a flashlight, and suddenly the passport I kept hidden snug around my waist felt like lead. Even though my new friend is well educated and in her late twenties, she must have a male relative escort her home after dark, not because the streets aren’t safe but because otherwise she is suspected of “impurity.” Without her family’s permission, my new friend cannot travel, because as a woman, she is considered incapable of such an independent pursuit. Even if her family approved travel plans, my friend is limited on where she can go without being raped or killed. For my new friend, selecting her own husband is a daydream.
On my friend’s passport, her religion is stamped in permanent ink. A mark on her heart that differed from the one on her passport could be paid for with her blood. Within the confines of her religion, God is inaccessible to my new friend when she is menstruating, after she sleeps with her husband, and for at least six weeks after she gives birth. The very things that were created unique to women make her dirty before her god.
Her questions led to some of my own. Why am I dished out such freedom while she heads out the door, in a headpiece chosen for her, to a world that expects nothing from her? I don’t know. I do know that this busted-up, unjust world looks an awful lot like the only one that makes sense when the daughters of Eve chose what we did not have over the Giver of life, and the sons of Adam stood by and let it happen. I do know that anything good found in the rubble of the Fall, like the freedom I have because of my American passport, is a gift to be invested and not wasted.
Because I am a woman in America, I am free on this Earth. Because I am a citizen of Heaven, I am free in Christ. Neither set of liberties make sense and neither set of liberties came cheap.
Before I walked a mile in my new friend’s homeland, I never realized the weight of responsibility I carry as a daughter of the King with an American passport.
Yes, sweet new friend, I can do what I want, so I won’t waste hours of my truly FREE time comparing or complaining on social media. I will use my unique gifts to invest my time in people, places, and experiences that are eternal. I will use my freedom of speech to bring life to my home and my workplace. I will use my freedom of religion to practice the “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27) so that one day my sweet new friend may be truly free.
American women, we are guaranteed freedom on Earth because of the blood of those who have gone before us and because of the blood of God’s Son, but we are NOT guaranteed how much time we have. For all our American freedoms, I see fear keeping us in bondage while the clock is ticking on God’s patience. When we stay behind our computer screens rather than getting involved, we might as well pick up a scarf and hide our face. “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?’” (Matthew 16: 24-26).
A cross in your heart and an American passport in your hands is a call to die to apathy and rise in action. Our American freedoms are a blessing from God, but the very best of God’s blessings become curses when we hoard them, and this explains the joy I felt worshipping with believers who have NO American freedoms, and the lack of joy I so often feel in American churches. Our God is THE gift giver. We are created in HIS image. When he gives us a gift, it is always meant to be given away. Rather than being defined by the gift-Giver and His sacrificial mission, we allow our gifts to define who we are until we don’t know who we are. When I began surrendering the gifts that defined my identity, at first, it felt like death, but as I waited for the emptiness to come, I found a life wealthier than I ever could have imagined coming at me like a tsunami. Do you want to experience a flood of joy? Don’t wait another minute. Take your American privileges and the unique gifts that you’ve been given, and die to yourself. Go broke spending them all on someone else in the name of Jesus. Then, open up your hands and get ready to experience a freedom no passport can grant you, and no oppressor can strip away.