What do you think of when you picture the word “free”?
Are you running through a field of flowers on a warm summer day? Are you walking barefoot along the beach, listening to the sound of the waves? Or do you imagine removing chains that have held you captive?
I know that “free” is my word of the year for 2020. But unlike last year when I had a very clear idea of why my word of the year needed to be “brave,” I don’t have a crystal image of what the word might mean to me this year.
I do know that the word “free” feels like it flowed naturally out of my year of choosing brave.
This morning, I sat with a few friends and a table of art supplies to try to illustrate our words. I used a page from Ruth Chou Simons’ book, “Gracelaced” as inspiration to write this verse and image with watercolor markers. As we talked about our words and what they meant to us, my mind went back immediately to an experience I had in the middle of the summer.
I was struggling through a hard situation and unexpectedly came face to face with the last person I wanted to see in that moment. I had unresolved conflict that I knew I would have to address eventually, but I was not prepared at all to do that in the moment. My heart was pounding. I was full of emotion. I wanted to run, but I knew without a doubt that I needed to be brave and have an honest conversation.
Instead of avoiding the person, I walked into the situation and said some difficult things that were on my heart. I had always worked hard to try to impress this person. I wanted to be seen as competent, intelligent, strong and loyal. But I didn’t care about any of that any more. I wasn’t concerned about what this person thought of me. I had nothing to lose. And I also had nothing to gain from that relationship. I was able to completely let go of trying to prove something or be something. It was an extraordinarily difficult moment for me. But when it was over, I felt… free.
That was a turning point for me and the beginning of a season that God has been teaching me what it means to be free. That week was also when I found those three keys that became physical reminders to me of the freedom I can have in this life.
When I think about the word, “free,” I know there are a few specific things it means to me:
It means being fully me without being concerned what other people will think.
It means having hard conversations without worrying what they might cost me.
It means releasing the worry that I carry about my kids’ future.
It means letting go of relationships that are no longer healthy.
It means walking away from something and trusting God to open the next door even when I’m unsure what the future will look like.
It means opening my hands and releasing all that I’ve held so tightly.
I’ve always thought of freedom as being released from something.
What I’ve experienced is that I have to let go of things in order to find my own freedom. As I open my hands, I release my fears. I release my worry about how people see me, my anxiety about the future, my grip on my kids, my desire to perfectly orchestrate my job and my life.
As I let go of things, I am the one who is free.
What does it mean to be free from a spiritual standpoint?
It means we are free from the weight of sin and guilt. It means we don’t have to strive to gain acceptance in the sight of God. We can’t do anything to earn God’s acceptance. He offered it to us as a free gift. We are hopeless before God, but because of His free sacrifice, we are declared clean and accepted.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
I’m actually a little nervous to see how this word makes itself known to me this year. I know that I am going to learn new things about what it means to be free. In the past, I have experienced the most freedom only after I have allowed the walls that surround me to be broken down.
If you look at freedom from a historical perspective, it typically comes only after pain and suffering. I know I have more walls that need to be broken before I can truly understand what it means to be free.
I’m excited for the result, but a little nervous about the process.
What about you? Do you have a word of the year?