“But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:16-17)
(Before I begin this post about freedom, I’d like to clear the air that I’ll be writing about individual and personal freedom. I recognize that there are a lot of injustices happening around the world and in our country. Black lives matter and just because Heaven is my home does not mean I feel justified to remain complacent on policies that ultimately put those of color at a disadvantage. I’m prolife from womb to tomb.)
What does it truly mean to be free? I think as humans, we often ask ourselves that question…..especially as we grow older.
When I think of freedom, I think to my childhood summers. My grandparents use to rent a beach house for two weeks in August in Ocean City, NJ (hence the NJ native of me). My entire family would make the trip down to stay and we’d often have multiple family friends visit. I remember the days of fearlessly running towards the ocean with my brother and sister, and our friends. Playing frisbee, baseball, or another game we imagined up in the back street behind the beach house. We’d walk on the board walk in our “hip” 90s attire (if you grew up in the 90s like myself, you know kids these days are missing out on style!). Nothing in the world could convince us not to ride any of the boardwalk rides- not even death (no really; our parents often questioned our safety on them).
When I think of freedom, I think of the little girl in Sunday school freely singing the usual Sunday school songs sitting next to her friends. We weren’t good, but God was delighted. Or the little girl who played on an all boys baseball team because I thought I’d one day be the first female player on the Philadelphia Phillies. That little girl knew who she was and wasn’t afraid to be exactly who she needed to be. Without a worry in the world she embraced life on this earth for exactly what it is.
As we grow older and life throws us curveballs, we begin to lose that childlike freedom we once had. Experiences make us skeptics, and the phrase “sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me” we find out is not entirely true (name calling does hurt if we’re honest).
Today we hear phrases “be true to you” and “live your truth”, yet we find ourselves constantly searching for an identity. Searching for belonging. Clinging to whatever “makes sense” to us in the moment because that’s what our emotions and feelings tell us. I once read somewhere (for the life of me I can’t find it) “searching for yourself and an identity is just exhausting”. I resonate with that exhaustion as I had too left my childlike freedom to fit into an identity that I thought would bring me freedom.
In college, I found my identity in validation. I heavily sought approval from others, yet masked that from my friends with my so called “happiness”. My family life took a major shift and my faith was shaken almost to the point of disbelief. I had no relationship with God yet I recognized Him when it was convenient, and partied my way through the pain. I found freedom in alcohol, marijuana, and hook ups. Temporary freedom that is. I’d wake up in mine or another guy’s bed with a hangover, and the insecurities and problems still present. Needless to say I graduated with a degree and life kept moving. Also let me just note that my close friends in college were amazing human beings. They really had no idea all that I had bottled up inside of me.
Fast forward years later and I’m cruising through my dream career in sports. I went from one identity to another now finding it in my career. My success and title was my new mask, and I began to build up a lowkey big ego because of it. I’ve spent most of my career in sales and service, therefore I use to slave away at the office to ensure myself the number one spot on the sales board and a bigger commission paystub. Having a sports background with a team title as a conversation starter always gave my ego a boost. I was good at my position, or any position, and I lowkey knew it.
It wasn’t until I moved to NYC and received a job with the Brooklyn Nets in their premium department as a service rep. I was graciously offered that job from a former colleague (who then was my new Director) and now mentor in the industry, wanting to grow me in my career. I failed miserably at the position my first year with the team- at no one’s fault but my own. Talk about a humbling experience and wake up call to reality. Not only did I fail at that job, but I found myself often incredibly lonely in the city that never sleeps. I had a great roommate at the time whom I was close with both her and her boyfriend, but when they were out of town, I felt the anonymity of the city.
It was then God found His way back to my heart when all the identities I chased after had failed me. He took me on a journey of surrendering my insecurities to Him; the very attributes of myself that I hated. I went down a valley of surrendering control, which was the hardest. I operated my entire career out of control, but He only wanted to show me that He was the Good Shepherd of my life and heart.
Isaiah 64:8 “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
So after all this, what do I now say freedom is?
Freedom is living in the fullness of who you were created to be, and confidently knowing your identity regardless of your past, mistakes, and imperfections. It’s not drifting into culture’s standards and the broken identities that it created with chaos and confusion.
Freedom is having joy and peace amidst troubles and hardships. Living fully in the unknowns, and being content without knowing every next step. Living with a full sense of knowing that while there is life after death, you can experience life in its entirety right now without having to search for it.
In true freedom, we don’t need to search for validation from any particular group because we know that we are fully loved and accepted by the Creator of the universe. A Creator who is so much bigger than your doubts, weaknesses, questions, insecurities, imperfections- in fact He wants them. He wants you. All of you. Just as you are. We are truly free to dance in the rain because we know we are infinitely loved.
Psalm 139:14 “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
So yes, be true to who you were created to be. You were created on purpose for a purpose, and your Heavenly Father wants you to embrace that childlike freedom. Think of your most fearless childhood memory, and that’s how God sees you.