What does it Really Mean to be Free?


My counselor asked me this question last week,  and I have pondered it ever since.

My mom said when I was a little baby I kicked and giggled and pointed at the birds. As I grew into an older child,  there  was a wooden swing hung by two ropes from the frame of an old shed in the back yard of my childhood home, and I spent countless hours there pounding the ground with my feet in an effort to get higher and higher.  Pointing my toes towards the sky, I’d close my eyes and imagine I was Supergirl.  My heart’s deepest desire was to find the strength and freedom to fly far away from my current circumstances,  and also for others to see me as someone strong.  When I think of the word freedom,  this memory often comes to my mind.

It’s been almost two years since we moved away from the town where the abuse happened.  Escaping from those terrible circumstances was a matter of survival for our family.   I didn’t even want to go to the grocery store or sit in the school line for fear that someone would see me, because I believed  they’d be talking about me behind my back.  I felt paralyzed, and begged God every day to move us somewhere else, and He did.

Even though escaping to a new place gave me the freedom to go to the store without seeing someone I knew,  it also brought about a whole new set of overwhelming circumstances; new job,  new schools,  no friends,  and family that in all likelihood knew about what had occurred in our previous town.  It was clear that in my escaping I’d traded one set of problems for another.  

*spoiler alert

I’ve been reading Erik Guzman’s book The Seed for the past couple of days.   It’s a fantasy novel comparable to C.S. Lewis and Tolkien’s writings,  and I cannot recommend it highly enough.  Madeline, one of the main characters in his novel, is a woman much like me who has also dreamt of flying to escape  her present circumstances.  However when she experiences what it truly feels like to fly, she discovers that this is not the source of freedom her heart is really longing for.

Wings gave her the ability to fly away, but she no longer wanted to. She ached to feel the water of light within her, flowing through roots connected to Love’s garden.
“How?” she asked, spreading her wings. “How do I let go?”
“Do you wish it?”
“I do.”
“Then it is done.

Last week I was sitting at my desk,  and a bright red cardinal landed on the branches of a young apple tree right outside my window.   I stared at it for a few moments until it flew away, I imagine searching for food or to escape our cat who enjoys stalking them.  But today as I walked outside,  I observed the apple tree.  My husband has been babying it, watering it regularly,  spraying it for bugs, and has even placed an old tire around it to protect it from being damaged by the lawn mower.  And it has grown so much, simply by just being there soaking up the sun in its leaves and the water through its roots. And if it continues to grow as it is, I suspect before too much longer we will have fruit. 

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord , meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.
Psalms 1:1‭-‬3 NLT

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.
Isaiah 61:3 NLT

And I realized as I looked at the tree, that maybe freedom doesn’t always look like birds. Maybe freedom looks more like a tree totally dependent on the sun and the water God provides to make it grow.  Maybe freedom looks like being still and allowing our roots to sink down deep into the ground below.  Though sometimes it doesn’t look like much is happening,  one day this tree will grow large and tall and produce fruit that will nourish others.  It will also provide many branches for the birds to rest their feet upon and build nests in.   Maybe freedom comes in blooming where we are planted and trusting God to give the increase.   Maybe freedom doesn’t mean flying away from our current circumstances.  Maybe it means digging down deep and grabbing hold of the truth of how much He loves us and promises to bring us good.  Maybe freedom means letting go of our own dreams so we can hold onto His.

Photo credit:  http://morguefile.com/creative/pippalou

2 thoughts on “What does it Really Mean to be Free?

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