This past summer one of my college gals had the opportunity to work at a ministry which helps women come out of the sex industry. They have all sorts of avenues to assist these precious women, whether it be helping them gain a GED or providing a reputable job, all the while showing them the way to freedom.
One of the first steps to freedom is for them to take the shoes they wore to prostitute themselves and hang them up on a wall. This one act is a signal to the world that they were done. They were done using their bodies as an avenue for sin and were turning their hearts towards the One who created them. They were done living a life of bondage and were now ready to seek the freedom that can only be found in a relationship with Jesus.
As I’ve thought about the significance of this outward gesture, I wonder how many of us need to hang up some shoes.
The writer of Hebrews says, Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. (Heb 12:1-2)
In our pursuit for freedom, here are some things we need to remember.
Freedom comes in realizing that you are not alone. Look back at the picture. There isn’t just one shoe, but five shoes hanging on that wall. Ladies, in your struggle against sin, you are not alone. Everyone who has ever lived on this frail earth struggles with sin and its entrapment. Paul reminds us over and over that temptations will come, but our faithful God will provide a way of escape for us (1 Cor. 10:12-13).
We do not and should not fight the sin battle on our own. These women knew that they, in their own flesh, could not overcome the constant pull of sin. They needed each other, and they needed the reminder of the victory that each shoe represented. Ladies, the pull of any temptation is too enticing and seductive. If you’re seeking freedom from a sin that has ensnared you, I beg you to get into a community of believers. Run towards trusted, biblically-minded women instead of away from them. I promise you will find a “large cloud of witnesses” who long to surround you and help you get back up.
Freedom also comes in the hanging up. Hear me loud and clear: You will never experience freedom from a habitual sin if you refuse to let it go. I love how the Message Bible says it: “Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.” What a powerful word picture! Some of us have “parasitic sins” that are sucking the spiritual, emotional, and physical life out of us. This sin has caused us to become tired, stressed, hurt, confused, and plain beaten down.
Ladies, you don’t have to stay in this state. You can choose to hang it up. Are there circumstances that cause you to spiral into sin? Hang them up. Are there any relationships that encourage your sin? Hang them up. Are there dark places in your heart that hide sin? Hang them up.
Unless you hang them up first, Satan will allow your sin to hang you.
However, you have a Savior who is standing with His arms wide open and ready to pour His freedom and life into you. But, you must make the choice.
Freedom comes with endurance. Though forgiveness of sin and salvation from Hell comes in a moment, freedom usually takes perseverance. Any marathoner knows the value and importance of perseverance. They did not wake up one day, go out, and then run 26.2 miles. Many months, if not years, went into training, pushing through injury and setbacks, and learning the best running technique for their body. In the end, they were rewarded with a great victory. You can ask almost any marathoner and they will say that finishing was their goal. It may be sloppy. It may be cold. It may be difficult. But, they finished the race.
The same is true for us seeking freedom and victory over sin. There may be days where we can only muster up enough strength to hit our knees in prayer. There may be days where our victory looks like two steps forward and one step back. But, please don’t quit. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Stare at Him until everything and everyone else fades in the background. He promises to perfect us, protect us, and provide us with His strength and energy to finish well. So, if today you find yourself tempted to give up, keep going. Hear the cheers of those who have gone before you and see the admiration of your Creator beckoning you forward. He loves you, and He is for you. Just keep moving.
Finally, freedom comes with running our own race. Several years ago, I trained for a half marathon. One of my friends, a seasoned runner, always said, “Amanda, run your race. Don’t run someone else’s race. Just run your race.” I had no clue what that meant until race day was upon me. I stepped up to the start line and immediately began looking around. My thoughts were a whirlwind. What in the world am I doing? I can’t compete with these people! That woman is going to lap around me at least four times before I finish my first mile. I can’t do this! Then I heard it: “Amanda, run your race.” I refocused, took my eyes off other people, and turned my eyes to my strategy. The gun sounded, and tons of people sprinted off. I ran, then ran some more, and then finally crossed the finish line. I wasn’t the first person to finish, but I also wasn’t the last person to finish.
Ladies, this is what this verse is talking about. God has set before us our own race, and He wants us to run it well. We’ve got to stop looking around and comparing our victory to someone else’s victory. Our personal journey to freedom will not look like another’s. Our victory may come in a different way and at a different time. But, as we press into Jesus and keep our eyes focused ahead and locked on Christ, we will cross over from death to life. We will go from defeat and failure to freedom and victory. Dear sister, run your race and finish it well.
So, what shoes do you need to hang up today? What has enslaved you, pulled you down, and stolen your joy? Are you willing to allow Jesus to take that from you so you can live a life of freedom?
Whatever it is, hang it up.