Advent Story Telling: Deliverance, Life, and Joy

Growing up in a Baptist church deliverance and stronghold formed the basis of my theological framework—we all sinners struggling with some stronghold, some proclivity we haven’t conquered on our own and thus in need of deliverance which can only come from repentance of sins. Prayers for deliverance shaped my corporate and private prayer life as a youth even as I struggled with what deliverance really means. It felt heavy, disempowering and passive where many aspects of our faith required action on my part.

As I’ve gotten older and reevaluated some tenets of my theological beliefs I’ve come back to deliverance again and again. Sometimes that word feels so icky and theologically laden that I want nothing to do with it. Deliverance for me is often asking God to step into the places I feel unable to affect change on my own. As such, in my own life deliverance has not only meant a bringing out of but also as a bringing to.

When I first became a mother to a tiny, beautiful baby girl, I was surprised by the absence of joy in motherhood that I felt. She was born at the beginning of January, over Christmas break, just after two feet of snow had fallen and right in the middle of a bad flu outbreak on campus. We had no visitors and the winter days in New Jersey were cold, windy, and short.  The nights, long and dark. Instead of feeling joyous about this new life I felt trapped and scared of the responsibility. So I prayed. I prayed for deliverance from feeling trapped and instead to find joy in every stage of my child’s life. As the days passed, growing longer and warmer, I began to marvel at my sweet girl’s growth, her little bitty feet and hands, how her eyes followed us around our apartment, how she quieted down  when I cuddled with her on the sofa. She and I spent hours on the floor just looking at each other, her on her belly strengthening her abs for future crawling and walking, me on my belly laughing in wonder at her delight with her new skills.

One day I looked up and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself at the threshold of joy.  I delighted in my baby’s gurgling, her love of baths and her bright eyes. I found myself rushing home after class to snuggle with her while reading for a paper. Somewhere along the way my prayers shifted from asking for joy to thanksgiving for the blessing of motherhood—a prayer I didn’t see myself praying in those earliest days.

I don’t know that I’ll ever have a full understanding of deliverance, but I am thankful for the change it brings within us. 

-Ryan Hawthorne

Ryan is the Youth Missioner and Director of the Da Vinci Lab, After School Program for St. Stephen's Episcopal Church.