This week, I’m sharing about my journey with the word “free.” It was my “one little word” for 2014, and it was a game changer.
A few weeks ago, I read in a devotional that all God’s promises find their “yes” in Jesus.
So much of Scripture is about setting people free. Stories of prison and slavery abound–from the Israelites in Egypt and Babylon to Paul & Silas in the prison yard. Jesus tells us that His burden is light; there is no slavery or captivity in relationship with him.
Freedom feels like a promise. Paul wrote that anywhere we find the Spirit of the Lord, there is freedom. Peter tells us that when in relationship with Jesus, we can live as if we are a people set free.
But I felt stuck.
The promise–freedom–wasn’t true for me.
At the end of 2013, a lot of circumstances beyond my control had left me a reeling: I was clinging ever-more tightly to my perfectionism and need for approval, and it was stifling. I felt stuck and suffocated. I was anxious and afraid and felt like a failure.
I was standing in a Sunday evening service last winter–in our normal spot, middle left of the sanctuary–with my hands on the back of the chair in front of me. Together, we sang an All Sons and Daughters song, alluding to Paul’s words to the Galatians.
“It is for freedom that we are set free.”
The words flooded my mind, an extemporaneous prayer, and I couldn’t shake them:
“I have no idea what that means.”
I knew, as certainly as if Jesus Himself had whispered it in my ear, that I needed “free” to be my word of the year.
In 2014, I wanted freedom. I could feel it in my heart and in my soul and in my bones. I was tired of living less than what God had for me. I wanted to be free from some patterns and behaviors in my life and free to do and be other things.
Free from guilt.
Free from fear.
Free from shame.
Free from approval-seeking.
Free from “should.”
Free from perfectionism.
Free to be myself.
Free to say what I really mean.
Free to want what I want and need what I need and not beat myself up about it.
Free to risk and try new things.
Free to fail.
Last December I used some Christmas money to enroll in Ali Edwards’ One Little Word workshop. I wanted to make sure that my word as at the forefront of my mind and heart as I went through the year. Somehow, I sensed that “free” was more important and significant than the words I’d chosen in the past, and I didn’t want the opportunity to pass me by.
I began taking note of each time I read or heard that word pop up: in Scripture, in songs, in blog posts, in novels, in conversation. Of course, many people quipped about my word, asking if I took greater advantage of BOGOs at Publix and if I was taking up extreme couponing. I probably should have.
At any rate, I read and heard about freedom everywhere I looked. And more than that, I began to pray, all day long, every day, “Lord, help me embrace freedom. Help me live like I’ve been set free. Let me be free.” It became the liturgy of my life. Feel stress? Say a prayer for freedom. Feel afraid? Say a prayer for freedom. Caught in a bought of perfectionism? Say a prayer for freedom.
I wish I could say it was more complicated or profound than that. I didn’t read the Greek and Hebrew versions of Scripture and uncover some connection that tied it all together (a la Ann Voskamp’s eucharisteo), and I didn’t join a worldwide movement to end slavery or something.
But in the small, still, quiet moments of my life, I found it. I found freedom. Or rather, I discovered how to tap into the freedom that was already mine.