I suddenly find myself surrounded by people who are tasting freedom. It’s like watching a seed sprout in slow motion, watching the light finally break through to what’s inside the hull and what’s inside the hull finally breaks out toward the light and stretches as hard as it can toward it. For some, this is a painful, jagged explosion and for others, it’s a still small voice that says, “You’re free,” and the willingness to take up the mat and walk.
I’ve seen too many people in my life experience a painful explosion that sets them free and others who’ve heard the still, small voice willfully ignore their new-found freedom. They choose to stay and wallow in their misery, or stay trapped, or remain in the muck and mire.
It’s painful to watch for me, because I’ve been there. Trapped, stuck, hopeless. Overwhelmed with the feeling that life would never be sunny again – while the sun blistered my skin. I weep for them as much as I know people wept for me as they watched me make the misery my only friend.
In the past few months, I’ve watched as people in my life that I care a great deal about have finally tasted freedom and have chosen to walk in it. Some have fought hard for it, others were rescued in spite of themselves, and others were blessed by the still small voice. “You’re free.”
How the still small voice doesn’t puncture the eardrum, I’ll never know. The voice of God is at times a surprising element, and at other times, a familiar sound, yet I’m always brought to tears when someone hears God’s voice and chooses to act in the truth that was shared with them or when someone gets a glimpse of life outside of their pain and chooses to believe that glimpse can become a reality. I know how difficult that first step is, but I believe the second one is is the most important.
The first step is a step of faith, a sheer act of the will that takes all the strength a person can muster. It’s like jumping off a cliff with no parachute and no water in the riverbed below, but knowing, praying, hoping, that the landing won’t be the end. The second step is the miracle because living in freedom is difficult and disorienting and unfamiliar. The second step is a miracle because the person who takes it realizes freedom is worth fighting for and worth another step. And another. And another.
Today, I found myself wishing I was thousands of miles away, standing in between someone I love dearly and the person that has no clue what a treasure he had because he can’t see beyond his own pain. I wanted to be the one he screamed at, that he railed at, that he poured his searing anger over. I wanted to shield her from more pain and protect her first steps toward freedom. I wanted to scream back at him…to wake him up…to hold a mirror up to his face and shout, “you idiot! Look at your sunburn! You are free!” but he can’t hear me. It’s not my voice he needs to hear.
More than anything, if I could, I’d tell him he’s wasting precious time… years he’ll never have back, and gifts that will never be offered to him again. I’d tell him that he should be shaking in his flip flops because one day he will be held accountable for how he treated a daughter of the King. A precious, precious heart that now must decide to embrace her own freedom, a painful explosion that’s changed her life forever… and yet I fear this painful explosion will not move him one millimeter toward the wide open door of his prison cell.
He is free, and he can’t accept it.
I cried all the way home. Tears of sadness for my friend, tears of joy that she’s on her way down the path of freedom. I was reminded of my own journey – how God is restoring the years that the locusts have eaten, and I freely acknowledge how much better my life is now that I’m out of the pit. I’m still learning, though, how to live in the freedom God so willingly gave me. I don’t always get it right. Sometimes I take detours and nearly get ensnared by old habits and thoughts, and other times I even take a momentary full reverse and the muck-slide nearly does me in, but God is faithful. He puts people in my path who reach out and grab hold of my hand, unwilling to let go until I get a grip and start climbing back out of the pit.
It’s a long, hard road, this path of freedom. It’s not easy. Never easy. Oddly enough, it can sometimes be lonely. Sometimes I even think that freedom should have come with some rewards, when freedom is the reward itself.
Years ago, the still small voice whispered, “take up your mat and walk,” and I didn’t for a long time. I didn’t know how. I wasn’t sure I wanted to leave my familiar misery behind, no matter how bad my life was. I wasted years. Precious years… and moments… and tears… and friendships… and pieces of my heart.
One thing I believe – The deeper the pit, the deeper the appreciation for the freedom. I fiercely guard my freedom now. I actively pursue building distance between me and the pit that was once my comfortable, life-sucking home.
Another thing I believe – a person who chooses the pit over freedom cannot be pursuaded to leave the pit except by the persistent love and grace of God, and even then, that person can tune God out. I am overwhelmed with sadness that someone can be so damaged that they won’t jump at the chance to be free. After all, I tell them how good it is out here all the time… they just can’t hear me over the sound of their familiar song of misery.
Today, I felt God hug my heart and remind me that I’m free, and she is too… and she is strong, God is stronger, and she’s going to make it through this, just like I did.
The second step is the miracle, my friend. Take up your mat and walk… and let freedom reign.