For those of you that don’t know, I’ve taken up a new hobby of woodburning in the past few months. It’s been so fun making pieces for friends, family, and even a few strangers. But this piece, it’s just for me, for my walls. Last March God gave me the word FREE, and I’ve spent the last year learning what that means. It seems one sided – either you’re free or you’re not – but I’m finding freedom is anything but simple. Every time I think I understand it, God shows me another area of my life that’s still in chains, another aspect of this word that needs its definition adjusted in my head.
Rebekah Lyon’s book You Are Free sparked this journey in me, and I dare say I may have unconsciously thought I’d have it figured out by the time I read the final chapter. I heard the word FREE and I thought fun, exciting, woo-hoo kind of freedom. I was so ready, and I told everyone about it. I don’t disparage that version of me, but I also laugh at her a little because she had no idea. I could only think then of the destination of freedom, and I was clueless about the difficult walk to get there.
A necklace at the local market that said FREE on it with a small bird caught my eye and I bought it. A few weeks later, my friend Katie gave me another necklace with the word FREE stamped across it as a going-away gift. In those days I felt anything but free. I felt trapped and forced and powerless. She wrote me a letter that talked about how we think birds are the most free of all, but just like anyone, they have boundaries created by water and atmosphere. I’d never thought of that.
God tackled my fear in those next months, and in Mexico I discovered a dynamic I had been missing – that I didn’t have to muster up the courage to be brave, but that I was FREE to be brave because of Christ’s unfailing faithfulness. I almost got a bird and the words “free to be brave” tattooed on me in Mexico, but timing didn’t work out. Turns out I thought I’d learned the lesson when there was still more. Free wasn’t ready to be put in ink yet.
And as I have battled fear in different ways, uncertainty and giving up control, and the weight of depression and anxiety here in Georgia, I’ve been learning the hard lesson of what it means to be free from the bindings of what I thought my life would look like. As I read the prophets I saw records of lives lived solely by God’s design, with the prophets’ own lives forsaken for being the Lord’s mouthpiece. I looked into the eyes of the painful reality that God doesn’t owe me anything. I’m the hunk of mud and he’s the designer, not the other way around. That’s a lesson I want to be on the other side of, not one I want to actually walk through. Freedom from the burden of control over my own life? Who would want that?
As the year turned Jen told me we were going to be reading a book called Boundaries as a church, and I instinctually recoiled at the thought. Turns out that was a sign that for me more freedom fighting was around the corner. I think back to Katie’s analogy of birds and I marvel at how good of a teacher God is, weaving it all together. Between that book, a book on the enneagram, and Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect, I learned that freedom in my life and relationships looks A L O T different than I had always assumed.
And yesterday I read in Lysa TerKeurst’s new book about dust. How it’s what God made his prize creation out of, how Jesus brought sight from it. How something shattered might be impossible to glue back together, but that my God has no difficulty working with dust. There’s freedom there too, because having a God who prefers working with dust means I don’t have to build anything. I mean, Jesus was the carpenter, not me.
Walking out of a prison of my own design should be easy, but it’s not. I won’t say I’m enjoying the fight for free, but I know it’s so good. With each chain link dropped, life is a little lighter, a little more free. Here I appreciate the mystery of the already/not yet. I know I still have many lessons to learn in living in Christ’s freedom, but at the same time, TODAY I can praise the One who has ultimately set me free. One of these days the time will be right and I’ll go ahead and get my bird tattoo, but I think what it was supposed to say all along was something more along the lines of Free Indeed. Because after it all, all the lessons, all the heartache, all the letting go, and even though I know there’s probably more to come, I can say that there is no doubt that I am free, free indeed. Hallelujah.
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