The Bird in Your Chest

You are always free.

I was irritated.

The woman behind the counter was being ill-mannered and spiteful. “If you don’t like the price” she said, “you can go somewhere else.”

Of course you’d say that. You’re the only centre for miles around. My skin prickled. If she was trying to get on my nerves, she was succeeding. A nasty word hovered on the fringe of my mind. I gave her a tight smile and asked another question as calm as I could.
“Do we have to pay another 700 naira when she comes for the examination?”

She threw her next words at me as if I was some kind of fool.
“What are you talking about? What examination?”

This was supposed to be a service! That was it. My patience snapped.
“WHY ARE YOU BEING SO RUDE? WAS I RUDE WHEN I SPOKE TO YOU??”

Who did she think she was?? My voice was a snarl – savage and loud in the large hall. The words shot out of my mouth like daggers, I couldn’t hold them. It felt strange. As though for that one minute, it was another version of me that spoke.

The woman went quiet and looked away. My spine tingled and I felt light-headed. I wanted to keep going. To exchange words with her and show her I wasn’t some half-wit she could speak to however she pleased.

I glanced quickly at my sister standing beside me. Through the whole thing she had been quiet and polite. She wasn’t even looking at me. In the silence after my outburst, she spoke in soothing tones and offered the woman payment. It’s okay, it’s not such a big deal, her actions seemed to say. My conscience pricked at my heart. What kind of example was I setting as a Christian when I couldn’t even hold my temper? I would be the perfect example of a hypocrite now if I tried to speak to her about God.

When we left home that morning, I was in good spirits. I was helping her register for an examination. We had laughed and joked and shrieked as we crossed the road, and I had been asking God for a chance to speak to her about everything I was learning from Him. That chance was certainly gone now. A dull ache flared in my stomach and I almost moaned at the thought of how awful I must have looked.

I was frustrated.
It’s not my fault! I told myself. The woman was being intentionally rude! She thought she could pick on me!
Actually, she was rude to us both, but my sister had remained quiet and composed. I thought I had my anger under control. What was wrong with me?

Even though I’m in my 20’s now, I still look like I’m somewhere around 15. Ever since I was in high school, people have picked on me for my size. I had to be tough and stand up for myself too many times to count. Sometimes, standing up for myself meant getting into a fight. But 2 years ago, I gave Jesus control of my life and started trying to live by the things he had taught. Turn the other cheek, he says. Matthew 5:39.

Unfortunately, it’s a lot harder to unlearn the things you learned to survive.

On the way home, I considered telling my sister to speak up for herself more. But I knew yelling at that woman was not the right thing to do. My sister had it right and I didn’t, and I claimed to be the one with Jesus in my heart. I prayed a quiet prayer when I got home, and forgave myself. There would be another day, I hoped. Another way to be a good example.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. When Paul wrote these words in Romans 8:1, he was celebrating the fact that Jesus died for all of us. The law tells us what we should and shouldn’t do, but it doesn’t tell us how we can stop doing it. Jesus died to save us from that part of ourselves that can’t seem to live up to the right standards. Now he lives in our hearts and he gives us the grace to try again when we don’t get things right. It’s only when I let myself lean on him that I have peace of mind. If I had tried to follow his teachings on my own this whole time, I would have given up completely a long time ago. There were times when I almost did. I mean, how do I let someone step all over me? Or try to steal my money from right under my nose? It’s hard being the way Jesus said we should.

But the Bible is our undeniable guide to life. As we walk the narrow road towards the amazing hope and glory of eternal life, every single one of us can and should be encouraged. Because even when that strong and terrible urge inside of us turns us around and makes us take off in the wrong direction; there is always another voice – small and easy to ignore, but still there – that tells us gently we can go back.

That voice lets us know that even when we make the worst mistakes, everything will be okay. You’re never too bloody or too dirty or too imperfect to get back on the road again. That voice is a blessing. It’s a bird on the inside of us that reminds us how free we actually are; even when our past makes us feel trapped.

You know that voice in your head that tells you constantly how you can never change? Ignore it. I choose to listen to the other one instead. It’s brought me so far down this narrow road, and it’ll take us all the way.

P.S: Do you still struggle with any frustrating thoughts or habits? Tell me your story in the comments, or what you thought while reading this.

Thank you to the stranger on tumblr for the beautiful illustration I used in this!

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