When I was a young boy, “freedom” was my secret word.
I whispered it in my prayers each night as I pulled the sheets over my ears. I often imagined it as a window to faraway places where my young shattered heart could breathe and laugh and relax into who I was meant to be. It represented everything I longed for and hoped I would someday recover. It’s rare for a boy of seven or eight to pray a lot, but I prayed all the time. I only asked for two things: Wisdom, and that God would set me free.
When I imagined freedom, I imagined it feeling something like this:
Beautiful, isn’t it? So redemptive. It’s really no great mystery to me that we leap off of mountains and jump out of planes. It reminds us of something vital about how life was meant to be, something wild and essential to our deeper nature. It’s even a part of our national spirit.
“Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death.” ~ Patrick Henry
I bet you’ve felt that longing too…that deep-set ache in your chest that pulls you toward a larger story. There’s more. There’s something, somewhere, bigger than this. There’s more to life. There’s more to YOU. It’s like your lungs are gasping for the pristine air of authentic freedom they were made to breathe, but for some reason have never quite been able to find.
Freedom is somewhere out there.
At least, that’s the great hope, isn’t it? That’s what keeps us so busily striving, heaving, sprinting, lifting, working so hard all of our days. We are, all of us, fighting to get free.
But what is it, really, to be free?
I used to think of freedom as a circumstance. You know, the beachfront villa on the Caribbean isle, or the simple cabin high in the mountains, far away from all the pressures and drama of my messy life. I later realized it wasn’t that. Wrapping my life in a idyllic protective bubble isn’t about freedom at all. It’s about control.
“Freedom is a bigger game than power. Power is about what you can control. Freedom is about what you can unleash.” ~ Harriett Rubin
I think Freedom is an inside job. It’s nice to have the money to live where you want, go where you want, and do as you please. But we see people like that paraded across our digital screens every single day. A few seem to have great lives, but most have anything but. It’s clear that neither money nor fame has set them free.
I believe freedom is simply the capacity and permission to be your true self. And by “true self,” I mean the deepest, truest version of who you were created to be. If I want to know how free I am, I need only look for the ways I still hide behind masks, or pretend, or project some facade, or hold myself back from being the wholehearted person God designed me to be ~ as those are precisely the ways I’m not yet free.
All of my coaching work points back to this, regardless of the specific challenge my clients are working through. The underlying question continually lingers in the air: What must happen for you to live free, to be everything God dreamed you would be?
As we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s work and legacy this week, I think it’s an important question for each of us to ponder in the deepest place of our hearts:
What must happen for you to live free?
Whatever it is, move toward that.