Living Free


I watched in dreaded anticipation as the two women approached me. One was Salem’s speech therapist, Maddie, and the other was her supervisor, Susan. I had been in the waiting room while Salem was in his therapy session. Today he was being evaluated to see how he had progressed since beginning therapy several months ago. Knowing what his original goals had been for therapy, I knew the results of his evaluation would not be good.

After the polite and cheerful exchange of greetings, Susan began to explain his results. “We realized that we need to completely change all of Salem’s goals. Right now we have goals for him to produce a certain amount of words or exchanges in communication. But it is clear that Salem is not quite there yet.” She very kindly went on to explain that they had a hard time eliciting a consistent level of gesturing and communicating, let alone speaking any words. Sometimes they could get him to interact with them, but most of the time they could not. She asked me if he was typically like this at home. “Yes,” I said quietly, “he’s basically in his own little world.” They both nodded their heads in empathetic understanding. As we were saying our goodbyes, Maddie got right into Salem’s face to say goodbye and wave at him. “See right now,” observed Susan, “there is no Maddie in his world.” I looked at Salem as Maddie enthusiastically tried to get his attention, but he gazed right past her as if she wasn’t there. I drove home in tears.

For the next few days, I was lost in my own thoughts of how much I wished I could draw Salem out of his little world and bring him into mine permanently. Having him shift in and out of the two worlds is heartbreaking at times. I especially dislike it when people who don’t really know Salem, go right up to him, say hello, and when he doesn’t even look their way, they assume that he just doesn’t like them.

While I was washing dishes and telling God how hard this was, a thought occurred to me. Maybe this is a little bit like how God feels about me. How often am I stuck in my own little world of worries, frustrations, and escape, when God is constantly trying to draw me out and into His world? How sad it must be for Him that I keep slipping back into my own self-absorbed world that only brings bondage to my life. It’s like what Romans 8:6 says, “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”

As I’ve been pondering this concept I was struck by this verse in my devotions recently: “But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” Romans 8:10, 11. Why do I live as though I am dead, when I can live alive in Christ, through the Spirit? How much of my life have I spent walking around dead in my body, when I have already been made alive in Christ?   How much energy have I spent on trying to achieve things before I am physically dead, while making myself more spiritually dead in the process? And if am already alive in Christ, but because of sin and satan, I easily fall back into my mind-world of death, how can I stay alive? How can I slip less and less into death?

Of course, spending time with Jesus, the Life Giver, and allowing Him to slowly transform us as we become more and more surrendered to Him is a given, but I think there is something else.   In all of my life experience there is nothing else I have ever done that has made me feel more alive than sharing Christ with others. Christine Cain once said, “Freed people free people. Hurting people hurt people…the abundant life is to be able to set other people free.” And I recently heard John Piper say, “I’m not quite sure how to explain it, but when people tell me they have walls between them and Christ and they don’t know what to do, I prescribe them to go and tell someone else about Christ. Whenever someone goes and tells someone about Jesus, the walls between them and God start to come down.”

The most alive that I can become is when I live connected with Christ and choose to help free others from their lives of spiritual death. That’s what Christ did for me and for all of us. He came to the earth to do what was necessary for us all to LIVE. He came to give us freedom from sin and death for all eternity including our lives on earth. And if we are His followers, we are meant to go out and free others by telling them about Him, the One who gives life to all. “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” Romans 10:13-14. As I experience more and more resurrection in my life through Christ, will I now go and help resurrect others and become more alive myself in the process?

One morning I was rushing to pack my purse as I was getting ready to take Salem to therapy. I picked up a book I was reading at the time planning to read it while I sat in the waiting room. Something nudged my heart and told me I was not to read that, but to keep my eyes and heart open to those around me. I whispered a quick prayer, “Lord, if there’s someone who needs You, help me be ready to share.” In arriving to therapy, I noticed the beautiful Indian woman whom I had seen for many months. She came with her son to therapy every Thursday morning at the same time as me. I had never really had a conversation with her before because we often sat on opposite sides of the room and I usually have Eden and Ezra with me, who keep me plenty occupied. But today, I came alone with Salem, and thought I should sit right next to her.

As soon as our boys were picked up by their therapists, she turned and looked at me as if she had been waiting to talk to me. I introduced myself and asked her name. “Pratheeba,” she replied and went on, “I have been watching you for many months now. I have never seen anyone interact with their children so peacefully as you.” I was surprised by her comment, but we soon began chatting like old friends. I found out that she has a teenage daughter, moved from India 14 years ago, is a practicing Hindu, and was shaken when her 7-year-old son was diagnosed with autism a few years ago. She openly shared how hard the journey with her son has been and how she still can’t find peace or resolution over the matter. Then with bright eyes and an expectant heart, she asked, “how do you cope with your son’s diagnosis?”

I was honored with the privilege to share with Pratheeba about the hope I have in Jesus. That even though Salem’s condition is hard to deal with now, I know it is short, and I’ll get to spend eternity with him completely whole. I told her that his condition is one of the greatest gifts I have received in my life because I actually long so much more for Jesus to come back. I think of heaven often and my decisions and actions have become eternally focused. I told her how God can take anything awful that happens in this world and make it into the greatest blessing. With each thing that I shared, it was as if I was witnessing to myself as much as I was to her. Life was filling up inside of me, and seeing Life fill up inside of her made my heart burst with joy. “Thank you so much for sharing that with me,” she said. “That helps me more than you know.”

Salem has made progress since that day of his evaluation. Maddie and I are seeing more and more hints of receptive language forming and his attempts at expressive language. I am grateful to all the work she has and is putting in to set Salem free from his little world. And I am forever grateful to the One who put in the hardest work ever done to set me free. I pray that Jesus will help me continue to choose life in the Spirit and set others free in Him.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

 “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13



  1. Sue Smith · December 3

    I have so many thoughts going through my head & my heart reading this Deanne… but it comes back to what Pastor BT said last Sabbath. We need to share what God has done for US!! Not necessarily a Bible study or a church doctrine, but what He has actually and truly done in our own lives. You are so right when you compare trying to get Salem out of his world to God trying to get US out of our world of worry and stress… what a great thought! Someone shared on FB this week that their daughter was their whole world. I gently corrected: let God be your whole world, then you will have everything you need to love & care for your daughter. I think of you often Deanne and your words are so meaningful and beautiful. Love you.


  2. Caiti · December 3

    You are such a gift to me. God knew what he was doing 15 years ago. Thank you for sharing


    • deannesnell · December 3

      I miss you, Caiti! Let’s get together soon. I met Pono at One Life a while ago. He is so nice!


  3. Lian · December 4

    Beautiful Deanne! So true and full of meaning. Love and miss you tons! So sorry the timing of your visits hasn’t fit. We love you!! Hope to see you soon. Sending love and hugs to you and your precious family!


  4. Kristin · December 6

    Thanks for this, Deanne. It makes me want to think more about what Jesus has done for me, so He can use me to free others!! And it gives me an idea to look for people to talk to while I am waiting for my son to get out of his counseling session, instead of being absorbed with things I could “get done” while I wait! Thanks so much!!!


  5. Jennifer Hernandez · December 6

    This was such a beautiful and inspiring post! Thank you for sharing your heart!


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