Freedom for Our Families
by Giselle Chiasson Saia
“My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s spirit. then you won’t feel the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness, unable to live according to how you feel on a given day. But when we use our freedom to live God’s way, He brings gifts to our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – we find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and divert our own energies wisely.” – Galatians 5:19-23 the Message
We probably do not typically equate the thought of self-control with freedom. Other synonyms come to mind such as restraint, self-discipline, self-possession and command. But when we reflect on the fact that God’s spirit dwells in us and we are set free by His sacrifice for us, we too experience freedom when we choose to walk with Him and in His spirit. Galatians 5:13 says, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather serve one another humbly in love.” It appears many of us suffer in this current day and age from much indulgence of flesh and of selfishness, or “Me Syndrome.” We must step out of this bondage in order to freely live and serve others in love. As Christians, we are called to “above all, put on love” (Col 3:14) and we possess the Holy Spirit “indwelling” us with His power. He gives us His spirit of power, love, a sound mind, and self-control (2Tim 1:7). So why do we struggle so much with practicing this especially at home, where the fruits of our choices matter most? One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch … how can we exercise freedom in self-control and fertilize the fruit trees in our homes and
families to yield a plentiful harvest as fruit appears in an orchard?
I have the honor and privilege of being a mom to a 22-year-old son, and 16-year-old daughter, a stepmom to three daughters, 16, 18 and 20, and a spiritual mother/mentor to many of God’s hurting children whom I counsel in my vocation/ministry as a Christian counselor. Upon reflection with my family and “children” as well as My Heavenly Father regarding self-control and family life, I encountered some revelations and “V8 slaps” in my own face and heart. Primarily, being a wife again in a second marriage and blending a family of teen girls at home brings much “baggage” on all our parts from painful past marriages and hurtful divorces.
God again (I am stubborn and He seems to keep leading me here) gently, lovingly, gracefully and mercifully, yet relentlessly, reminded me that the battle for self-control is within and with ME. He has not called me to control anyone but me.
The battle is with me, myself and I and on the last day, He will only converse with ME about ME and how I did with what He gave me – not to discuss my husband, my ex-husband,his ex-wife, or anyone else I happened to have had issue with. If something is causing inner turmoil in me with my husband, then I must seek God’s face only to see if He is revealing an area in me that needs deeper healing, pruning or growing, and as I allow Him to work in me and I let go, He can deal directly with my husband much more efficiently than even I, the Christian counselor who “has done her work!” Ha! He reminds me I am not that co-dependent girl anymore and as I let Him sit on His throne and let His love flow in and through me, then I can choose love and let go and love my husband as He would love and forgive him. When I move in the spirit of self-control here, the atmosphere changes immediately in my marriage and in our children and household. Thus we are all free to love and serve and heal more deeply and we can do it with joyful hearts, free of selfishness, pride or irritation. I am reminded there is freedom in choosing selflessness over selfishness and in relinquishing control.
In our home, practicing self-control and self-discipline over our schedules and time is key. If my husband and I prioritize early morning time set aside to sit at His feet in His Word, to quiet our minds and hearts to hear Him speak in a still, small voice to our loud minds and we allow ourselves to receive His peace and guidance for our marriage, work, family and other issues, we carry that peace into the remainder of our day. But on the days we oversleep, are rushed to get to work or roll over and grab the cell phones and are pulled in by the world and demands of the day, our entire household and those we influence suffer. One bad apple …! It is evident that feeding our spirit-man and
starving our flesh brings freedom, peace and joy even if it does not “feel” that way in the heat of the moment. If only we would roll over and grab our Bibles as quickly as we grab electronic devices to check news, work e-mails, Facebook, social media and other worldly distractions, what a difference our homes, communities and world would be, not to mention the joy we would bring to our Heavenly Father who simply wants a deeper relationship with His children.
He has not called me to control anyone but me. the battle is with me, myself and i and on the last day, He will only converse with Me about Me and how i did with what He gave me...
Deeper and more present and intimate relationships within our families also results from the fruit of self-control at home. If we all are more mindful and intentional about being fully present in the moments, not just present with cell phones in hands, then face-to-face loving interactions take place. Real connections are made. Loving memories that last forever are experienced at the heart level and those stay with us and can even help heal wounds of past disconnected places. Dinners, hanging out together on couches cutting up with each other, family vacations, moments between
spouses, and conversations take on a fuller and richer meaning much as God desires with us. It takes self-control within the home with cooperation from all parties to defeat the enemy’s distractions that Paul refers to in Galatians as works of the flesh. The enemy is referred to as the god of this world and the prince of the airwaves, and he seeks to destroy, divide, steal and kill unity and purity in the family. “It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time; repetitive loveless cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; a brutal temper; impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives ….” (Gal 5:19-21) On that note, I must admit my beautiful 16-year-old daughter’s response to what self-control in the family looks like to her were powerful words from a mature and wise-beyondher-years young woman of God. My other beautiful 16-year-old stepdaughter has given me feedback as well and we have all been tested in this department as I prepared this article. Imagine that! Never any coincidences with our sweet God! I was reminded that parents set the tone for the family with self-control over our tongues and anger, and we should be quick to listen and slow to anger and slow to speak. As James reminds us in 1:19, we as parents should refrain from being short-fused with each other or our children because words do hurt. We should show emotional maturity by stepping back, reframing, resting, and responding versus reacting to our emotions because words cannot be taken back and they enter our heart like fiery darts being used by the enemy to stir more strife and division in families. I was reminded that we should also watch the profanities (yes, we slip up in that department) that fly as
little ears do hear all and then repeat all, and children do as they see, not as they are told not to do. Word curses and generational curses have their roots here often. From the perspective of the teenagers and children and self-control, my daughter shared that controlling emotions and responding first before reacting was important, especially around gossiping as one never knows what is really going on inside a person who is behaving in an unbecoming manner. Thus judging and gossiping would only make it worse. She added that selfcontrol or jealousy among siblings is not necessary because they should support and bless each other’s achievements. And if a parent is spending much time with a particular sibling, that sibling may be going through a difficult or dark time or emotional struggle and may need to lean on and be supported by one or both parents more than usual. She was insightful in noting that she would have to step aside from emotion and see what was really festering there that God may be dealing with. Definitely words for us all to live by and to remember to choose selflessness and put on love so His love flows throughout the home, not anger, jealousy or division.
I long to walk in the freedom and power of choosing self-control given freely to me by Him who lives in me. There will always be a battle between flesh and spirit as Paul reminds us in Romans 7:15-20. “I do what I don’t want to do and I hate what I do.” This statement holds so true, especially for those who struggle with addiction, compulsions, obsessive behaviors and even the choice to live a balanced life of healthy eating and exercise. May we remember the importance of feeding our spirits and starving our flesh and the power of prayer and fasting. I will stay focused on the One who is sovereign (Eph 1:11) and ask Him to continue to change ME into His likeness so His love and Holy Spirit flow in and through me to my spoise, my children, those I touch in counseling, and to His precious Body, the Church. I will keep in mind that without love, and self-control, I am nothing. May the choice to walk in the spirit of self-control, I am nothing. May the choice to walk in the spirit of self-control and not in the flesh produce a lush harvest of love and connection on our family's tree of life.