When I lost a bag at the airport a week and a half ago, I had about 5 minutes of, “Did I really do that? Oh crap all my debit cards were in there and I need gas to get home. How am I going to do my work and write the things without my computer? Oh shoot all of my IDs were in there. My book proof was in there!”Read More
Years ago, I took a last minute trip to Iraq. It was two weeks away from my two year-old and it was traveling to a country perceived as dangerous, which made the trip selfish in the eyes of some.
In hindsight, it is easy to see God’s hand in the entire process, but in the middle, as I prepared to leave, I worried whether I was doing the right thing and acting with the right motives.
I wanted to go. I wanted it badly.
I wanted to travel back to the country I last saw as a soldier. I wanted to be a part of something positive there. I wanted to meet the people under different circumstances. I also wanted adventure. I wanted to get on an airplane and do something exciting. I wanted to do this thing – go to this place.
I told a friend what I was feeling, how I was scared this was a selfish act, a selfish decision. He responded, “How many people do you know who ‘want’ to do this?”
And something clicked for me. A big something.
A life-giving, freedom-giving something.
Wanting to do a thing, wanting to be a thing, wanting to go to a place – these do not poison an action. They are a part of every poisonous action, which is why I was confused, but wanting is not the poison.
If I am walking with God, abiding in Him, listening to the Holy Spirit – if I am ready and willing to stop when He says to stop, to go when He says to go, to stay when He says to stay – I don’t need to be afraid of my own desires.
If I am seeing Him for who He is, if I am daily giving my life to Him, I don’t need to stress, to strive, to stumble over every decision.
For six years, I have been doing more and more of what I want to do. Mostly, I avoid doing things because I think I should. Mostly, I avoid doing things because other people think I should.
I do what makes sense based on my circumstances, my strengths, my weaknesses. I walk closely with my God, so that my desires align with Him and I do the things I want to do.
I am a servant, but I am a servant to a freedom-giving God. I’m not a slave to my own expectations, nor a slave to the expectations of others. I’m not a slave to God’s expectations either – I could never meet them, they’ve already been met for me, and there is new grace and mercy for me every single day.
And for you, too.
You are free. Are you living free?
I just finished watching Robin Hood, the three season BBC series, and I am genuinely, pathetically depressed there are no more episodes for me to indulge in.
Over thinker that I am, I over-thought this today. Why did I love the story so much? Why was I so sad to see it end? Why did I identify so deeply with a story set hundreds of years ago and why did I (seriously, I know how pathetic this sounds) feel like an actual part of myself was missing when it ended?
I think it's because this is our story. A kingdom wracked with injustice. Starving people hanged for stealing bread. Slave labor in deadly mines. Livelihoods destroyed over failure to pay an unfair tax. War. Drought. Famine. And amidst the injustice, character is revealed.
There are those who rebel openly and fight against it - Robin Hood and his men. There are those who rebel secretly and fight injustice from the inside - Marian. There are the young and the sick and the elderly who can do nothing - who are at the mercy of the cruel if there is no savior to step in and fight for them. There are those who have money and title, but who do nothing. They fear the consequences of helping the poor. Or they rationalize - helping will not solve anything - sticking their own neck would be foolish. They stick their heads in the sand. They protect only themselves.
And there are the villains - the ones who want more and more and more. More money. More power - at any cost. The Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John and Sir Guy.
We have those characters. Here in the 21st century we have heroes and rebels and villains. We have weak and powerless people being crushed by greed and neglect. We have heads buried deep in the sand. We have gobs of injustice.
It is our story. It has always been our story. It is the result of sin. It is why Jesus came - to bind up the brokenhearted, to set prisoners free from darkness. To set us free. To set everyone free.
We are free. Right now, we are free.
In the series, Robin Hood lost his land and title because he refused to oversee an unjust hanging. He ran to Sherwood Forrest, no longer an Earl but an outlaw. In a run-in with a group of outlaws in the forrest, one of them said something that stuck with me -"We are dead men." They had lost their homes, families, a place in their country, a reason to live - they were simply surviving as men already dead. Robin challenged them to stop living as dead men. He gave them a purpose, something to fight for, something to fight against - something to live for. And later, when he was handing himself over to the Sheriff to protect an innocent woman- when his men said that doing so meant certain death- he said, "at least I will not die a dead man."
He was living free. Daily willing to lay his life down to protect the innocent. Entirely devoted to combating the injustices in front of him - never letting an opportunity to right a wrong pass him. Stripped of everything that his society valued - labeled an outlaw - walking with a price on his head. But in a way, more free than he could have ever been sitting in his manor, observing the injustices outside his window, and doing nothing.
For 36 episodes, I felt free too. Living vicariously through a fictional character, I felt lighter, as though my own chains were no longer holding me. Chains of practicality, of pleasing others, of meeting expectations, of meeting properly set goals and following carefully laid plans. Chains of achieving, of seeking wealth, of designing a comfortable and contented life. For 36 episodes, I was with Robin - living as a nomad in the forrest with one set of clothes - eating whatever small animal my friend managed to catch and cook over a fire - facing death every day - stripped of the life I cling to and welcomed into a life of purpose. A life devoid of so much that I value, but so full of the freedom I crave.
Isn't that what Jesus does? He strips us of the life we cling to - if we let Him. He welcomes us into a life of purpose - if we let Him. I wish I could be like Robin Hood - letting go of the old life easily and bounding into the new one with endless passion and energy and faith. But I am not like him. Jesus strips and I cling. He welcomes and I balk.
And sometimes, I sit in my pj's and lose myself in someone else's story instead of getting dressed and living my own.
I'm setting a new goal - to live free. I'm laying out a new plan - screw my plans and follow Jesus. I'll let you know how it goes.
*I wrote this piece about 4 years ago. I am grinning wide as I re-read the end because living free is still the goal, etched deep on my heart though I'd completely forgotten what started the initial spark. I have spent the years since writing this moving closer, stumbling lots, toward a stripped down life, which I will write some about - eventually.*