Monday, October 4, 2010

Freed to Be

It is very obvious at this point that if I’d just get out of my way, I could be the woman God’s created in me. It’s that first part that’s the sticking point.

With this realization, I’ve realized something else: I have always been in my way. Sure, I have pushed it off on some very fantastic excuses, but the truth is that by letting these things control me, I was setting up my own roadblocks. Over the past several years, as God has done His healing work in me, He has torn down (with my permission and labor, since He and I decided to work in tandem) every obstacle I have ever put in my path.

My heart is free, and the vast expanse before me with its clean air and open spaces and quiet whisper confirm that every day. I can’t tell you what it’s like to hold no bitterness or anger in my heart. Maybe I can; it is passing the ten-year anniversary of the death of a man who inflicted so much pain and for the first time, realizing that I can love him anyway and that I’m no longer condemning him to burn in Hell. I can’t tell you what it’s like to not be tempted to run away from the heaviness of a heart that is raw for God, that feels everything. Maybe I can; it is the wisdom to embrace all of the brokenheartedness and the burden knowing full well that every deep sigh, every tear reveals more of God that just puts me in further awe of Him. I can’t tell you what it’s like to stop hearing the lies that defined you for decades. Maybe I can; it is looking in the mirror and losing your breath to the beauty reflected in you, putting your hands to something new or challenging and smiling at the outcome, looking someone in the eye when you speak with them because you just don’t feel like the scum of the earth any more. I can’t tell you what it’s like to develop trust in your body. Maybe I can; it is honoring yourself through proper care, and it is living a life that doesn’t exist between doses of medication or admissions to the hospital. I can’t tell you what it’s like to not be exhausted. Maybe I can; it is sleeping soundly through the night and waking up rested and refreshed.

As much as God has taken away the things that held me back, the voices in my head and in the world that had permeated my heart and controlled my existence. As much as He has freed me from all of the things I have too long struggled with – unworthiness, shame, fear, anger, resentment, brokenness, ugliness, doubt, and did I mention unworthiness? – He has done so much greater things in replacing those with the things of Him. Truly, this is redemption. Truly, He has set me free.

Then why am I still standing here with my feet stuck in the mud? Why do I refuse to take a bold step forward into the fullness of that freedom, which I have been blessed to taste in its fullness a few bites at a time?

It is overwhelming.

It is not that I think I don’t deserve the good things of God; that misconception has long passed me, as He set me free from that as well. It is not that I think I am getting what I’m owed, that someone or something owes me for the places I’ve been; that implies a lot of things about the universe that I’m not willing to accept. It is not that I think God is playing a game with me, that this is all a pipe dream or a mirage that will fade as soon as I try to draw near; this is tangible, and that, I know for certain. It is not that I feel inadequate or lost, like I wouldn’t know how to live in that place if you paid me to.

It’s really that I’m kind of afraid I could.

There’s a stark contrast here, a bold line between what I have always thought I’ve known and what I absolutely know for sure now. It calls me to a higher standard, a better way of living that requires more of me than I have ever had to give. It is easy to take the low road, to get mired and stuck and do the things that take the least effort. It is more difficult, and more unnerving, to expect and even demand your whole self to be in everything. That requires a commitment and a lot of energy that says, “I don’t give up. I don’t give in. I don’t quit.” It says, “This is what God has created in me, and I am going to live the wholeness of that every day, even when it is hard.”

And what an incredible responsibility. This has changed my prayers dramatically, from “Lord, please help me through another day” to “God, make me worthy of the call You have placed in my life.”

Make me worthy of feeling beautiful every moment of every day.

Make me worthy of staying content to be quiet.

Make me worthy of embracing all of my story, which is only more beautiful every moment you transform and redeem it. Oddly, I have noticed this has deepened my past and humbled my present. It’s awesome.

Make me worthy. And make me bold. Bold to step forward and not fall back. Bold to not be overwhelmed (I am SO overwhelmed by this penetrating transformation; it is the overwhelmed that makes me turn and run just when the freedom grasps my heart). Bold to be everything You have created me to be, to go where You call me to go, to live as You call me to live.

I am overwhelmed by the newness, by the contrast between the life of entrapment and being in my own way and the blessed existence that freedom (true freedom) in God offers. It bothers me when I get so overwhelmed that I turn back, and this is nowhere more evident than in relationships. I’m in a small group through my church, which meets at a family’s house that is not mine. When I get there, I realize what it is to me and to this woman of God in me to be invited into someone else’s home…and not be afraid. And not feel awkward. To share a story or join in a conversation and not feel like I’m the one out of place, like these people just include me to be including me (though that thought still takes hold in the darkness of night if I let it). To not leave after visiting with someone and Monday-morning quarterback it to figure out every small little thing I might have done or said wrong. To not wonder if I’m good enough. To not wonder if they are talking about me behind their backs. To not wonder if I’m weird (we all KNOW I am weird).

Every thought, every pain, every sickness, every ungodly thing that has ever ruled my life or my thoughts or kept my brain running in circles…is just gone. When I realize that, I am overwhelmed. Overwhelmed to the point of tears as the beauty of a life in God pierces my heart. Overwhelmed to the point that I run away.

Why am I running from goodness? I just don’t know. I don’t know. Don’t get me wrong – I am a trained long-distance runner; I have spent my life running. But I don’t want to run any more, and I pray that God will settle that spirit in me. Still, it’s weird because I am so VERY aware that I’m not running out of fear any more. I’m not running out of shame or unworthiness. I’m not running out of awkwardness or discomfort. I’m not running because I think I’ll ruin something if I stick around. I’m not running because I am afraid the bubble will burst.

I am only running because I’m deathly afraid that this could be real. That God could really be doing this in me. That I could be this transformed, this redeemed. This overwhelms me to tears, repeatedly. Just about every day these days.

What does that require of me, knowing how real, how permanent, how tangible, and how awesomely incredible this is?

I have to forgive myself. Forgive myself for not being this before, for holding back my life and holding on to too much. Forgive myself for rejecting this goodness, His goodness, before now. Forgive myself for ignoring His presence or turning my back. Forgive myself for having to forgive myself.

I want to be the kind of woman who steps into that and not away from it, who embraces the fullness of God’s presence and brings honor to His call. I want to be the kind of woman who doesn’t need to run from the good things in life because it is entirely ok to be beautiful, to be calm and quiet, to be content and assured and confident, to be His beloved, and to be blessed. I want to be the kind of woman who isn’t afraid to be everything God has created in her.

Lord, free me to be that woman in all her richness, knowing full well the contrast and the overwhelming and the energy that it entails. Lead me into the richness of Your mercy and guide me through. Do not let me stand in my own way any longer, but let me step boldly into everything You are calling me to. Let me be fully the woman You have created in me and to be neither afraid nor boastful about that. Free me to be.

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