My ego would rather I not write tonight, because truthfully, what I most need to say is that I’m feeling tender and weak and a bit untethered. My ego has always hated the idea that someday, I might look in the mirror and feel compassion for the woman staring back at me, so it tries to keep me from ever looking for too long. My ego would rather I bow down to the gods of production and perfection and certainty. But in spite of my ego, I find myself back here at this altar. I find myself hungry again for the bread and wine of mystery. The muscles of honesty and humility must be conditioned just like any other, and I’m always caught off guard by the truth that showing up becomes easier the more you do it.
I’ve been thinking about freedom lately. Well, really, I’ve been thinking about freedom since last fall, when our house church was studying Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection. I wish I could say that I loved every last minute of it. I relished the chapters on cultivating gratitude, meaningful work, and letting go of status. Those are ideas that fit snugly into my comfort zone. But then, when we got to the last chapter on laughing, singing, and dancing, my stomach churned. In fact, I’m certain that I made a joke about not bothering to show up that week. Just the thought of laughing, singing, and dancing made me so deeply uncomfortable. My mind flooded with memories of friends trying to get me out on a dance floor, and me, sitting in stoic refusal. I wonder, somewhat hesitantly, as if I’m nervous that I’ll lose my footing, if I have ever felt comfortable in my own skin on any meaningful level. I’ve tried to shrug it off as a personality quirk, saying no thanks, dancing isn’t really my thing.
An old friend once told me that she was praying for God to help her laugh, and the concept was so foreign and ridiculous to me that I just sat there stunned.
Oh, to be so light.
Somewhere along the way, fear handed me the lie that being carefree meant losing integral parts of myself—my thoughtfulness, my intuition, my care-fullness. Who would I be without those pieces? Would I simply unravel and cease to exist? I became convinced that joy was folly. Sometimes desire is buried so deep that it seems lost for good.
At the beginning of the year, instead of getting a word to meditate on, I got three: a prayer. Holy Spirit, come. Now, I find myself asking why. Do I really even know what I’m asking for? To what end am I inviting this mysterious third member of the divine to come and make a home in my life? With every question, I am digging deeper, excavating until I find the answer.
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Fear constricts the way it does when it knows it is about to lose its grip. It turns out, I am no safer in my comfort zone, keeping company with anxiety and agitation and hoping that they decide to be friendly instead of cold. But they are only ever cold. They mock and torment me like abusive lovers, screaming that I will never be anything without them.
In the dead of night, I am packing my things.
I would like to be free.
If you had asked me before today if I felt free, I probably would have told you that I felt fine. I am only now realizing that the two might actually be different. For so long, I had resigned that freedom was perhaps just an ill-fitting sweater—something that looked good on other people but was not designed for my own shape. It had never dawned on me that there might be something to aim for beyond my baseline, that I had simply adapted to the toxic air of my normal. And if you were to ask me today what freedom looks like for someone like me, pensive and cautious and with little energy to spare, I would have to be honest and tell you that I don’t know. But I do want to find out. So I keep digging, and God leads kindly, whispering that I can be carefree and trust him to be careful. I didn’t know when I prayed to want him that instead of trying to fit himself into my cramped comfort zone, he would invite me out of it and into wide open spaces.
In the words of Ann Voskamp, we can leave our comfort zones behind, because “everywhere we go, we are with the Comforter.”
So I step out, gingerly at first—wobbly, like I am learning to walk for the first time. I look out and see joy on the horizon, running. For the first time, I don’t want to turn away.