When I hear the same thing from several directions in my life my ears perk up, because it’s often God trying to get through to me.
Today it’s the concept of freedom.
I have been working through the things my therapist and I have brought to light, because I have to analyze things in several ways to really get it.
I’ve always been a very tactile person, and visual. And aural. And vocal. I suppose if I could smell and taste an idea that would be perfect
Ideally I would be able to fully see and hear, while at the same time restating out loud and writing down complete thoughts as they come to me. And drawing beautiful pictures to illustrate. (That part is in my dreams.) The result would be both a complete restating of what I got out of the experience, as well as an impression of what it all meant that I am willing to alter as I gain more understanding of the facts.
I guess that would be one way to define the way my mind works. I let my thoughts go in different directions, and try to glean from them the best ideas, leaving the inferior ones behind. Free to pick and choose the ones that best support whatever I am coming to think about any topic.
So the topic of freedom keeps coming up.
The first condition I’ve uncovered in my therapy is that I have lived in a state of persistent paralysis. One way to describe this is that it’s like the common dream where you are in a situation and helpless to do whatever it is you need to do: scream, fight, run, whatever would get you out of the conflict you are in to safety.
Years ago when Switchfoot released “Dare You to Move” it resonated with me, though at the time I didn’t connect how paralyzed I really felt. In many many areas of my life there were so many things I longed to do that I could imagine in intricate detail, but when it came time to step out and do, well, I was stuck.
I’m still in the process of working through this, and true to who I am, I am examining this revelation in lots of ways. One of them is to search out what the Bible has to say about being paralyzed. One passage that came up doesn’t use the word, but encompasses the idea:
For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Galatians 5:14 (The Message)
Self-interest vs. free spirit.
If there are any two words I would have used to describe myself for most of my life, it would be those: free spirit.
By which I would mean not tied down to any one activity or course of action, versatile and able to go with the flow of life, willing to change things up to suit the current circumstances.
In my mind I am this free spirit. But the reason I think of myself this way is because by allowing myself an out, I am able to protect myself from situations that are threatening or uncomfortable.
In other words, I’m free to walk away whenever I feel like it. Which is another way of saying, I’ve really been about keeping myself safe for most of my life.
And that doesn’t feel like freedom to me, because for many years I’ve been on guard, waiting for the times I’ll need to walk away to keep from getting hurt.
Galatians says my self-interest is in direct opposition to the free spirit. So what does that mean?
So another source I look to for help in figuring things out is The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. I regularly read through this, taking about a year, as I often have to reread one sentence a dozen times to let it sink in.
And today I read a passage about how the enemy can’t always use bad circumstances to draw us away from God, because God often does his most important work in us while we are going through trials. In this paragraph is this:
” One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself – creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His.”
(That was two sentences. See what I mean?)
If I’m reading this correctly, Lewis is saying that service to God is perfect freedom, because the person’s will freely conforms to God’s will for them.
In this sense, freedom means a giving up of my own self-determination to let God decide what is best for me. And by giving up my rights to myself, God gives me life full and overflowing with his love and goodness.
So back to Galatians. A free spirit (and I still love that phrase, love that it’s in the Bible!) really means a person who is so sure that God is able to do beyond what they can ask or imagine, that they live giving up their own plans daily to let God work out his plan through them.
What I’m starting to see, with the persistent paralysis of my life, is a woman who has been anything but free. And as my impotence is falling away from me, I’m finding I don’t have to stay stuck in old patterns of thinking.
There is a truly free spirit inside of me that has been biding her time, waiting to be allowed the luxury of resting in the knowledge that God has a good plan for me, and I need to let him bring it about.
I don’t have to do this on my own.