Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in fear and nature’s night
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray (what the heck?)
I woke. The dungeon flamed with light
My chains fell off and my heart was free
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee
These are words to a powerful, ancient song by John Wesley. Many of us can relate to the imprisoned spirit and dungeon parts. But, this morning, I thought for the first time about the very strange “eye diffusing a quickening ray” line and (from personal experience) translated it as…You focused a laser of life-giving power directly upon me and, in a millisecond, I was free…
So, if today I need freedom (miracles, hope, direction, wisdom, forgiveness, power), can it be that the laser of life-giving power might focus on me, one more time?
At times in my life when I felt trapped, this quote made me furious.
After taking charge of my thoughts and deciding not to play the victim anymore, I embraced the power of this truth for all political, social, racial, geographical, financial, physical, spiritual, and mental conditions. In books, videos, and on line, I have found role models who have claimed their freedom from the most radical and torturous prisons imaginable.
If you are in prison today, there are crowds of angels, women, and men calling you to freedom. I said yes when Nelson Mandela, Helen Keller, Abraham Lincoln, Maya Angelou, John Bunyan, Stephen Hawking, Etty Hillesum, and countless others left messages for me.
We are born to be free, right? ( Or was that born to be wild?) Anyway, here’s what I’m glad to be free of…
- Fear – The biggest, baddest thief of all good. I was just thinking this morning that no matter what happens to me, my responsibility still remains the same; love people and trust God. So…I don’t have to fear any circumstance or condition.
- Guilt – I practice forgiving others (and myself) daily
- Negativity – I am replacing negativity one thought at a time.
- Hatred – I refuse to take this poison.
I am also glad for countless other freedoms, but acutely aware that those freedoms cannot be fully appreciated without these first four.
“Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world…
risk being seen in all your glory.”
The second quote can only be fully understood in light of the first quote.
Being content and comfortable with oneself and certain of our own unique value cancels the need to scramble for worthiness.
For clarity, Carrey is not talking about being an I-don’t-care-about-anyone-except-me jerk. He is talking about using one’s complete and unique self to make a difference for others.
Not one of us can pull this off successfully until we quit comparing ourselves to:
- What we think we should be
- What others think we should be
- Anyone or anything else
I like this a lot.
We all want it.
Freedom makes life worth living.
Those who have been denied basic freedoms attest to that.
But, there are also those who found freedom in spite of their circumstances.
They call to us today, raising the flag of freedom and bellowing a song of hope.
And, there are those of us who have always been free who live as if we are not.
Celebrate your freedom today by changing your mind.
(*IYAD WYAD YAG WYAG: “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.”)
In my personal experience, I’ve found these things to be true:
- When I drop my “agenda” and simply be present with people, I love them more.
- When I remember that we are each hiding painful scars, I am more patient with people who do not act the way I think they should.
- When I refuse to judge a stage of another’s life as the finished product but rather as a work in progress, I am kinder.
- When I believe that my happiness is not dependent upon what someone else does or doesn’t do for me, I am more peaceful.
- When I don’t spend energy guarding my ego, love is easier.
- When I clear out the emotional clutter of drama, bitterness, anger, and hatred, more love comes into my life.
You are flawed and beautiful. Like everyone. – Cheryl Strayed
How I wish I had not wasted so much energy believing or pretending that I was not flawed. And, how I wish I would have accepted my own flawed beauty (and that of others) as the simple gift it was. How I wish I had shed the camouflage so much earlier.
But today I will laugh at my humanity and relax in the certainty of my worth. I will walk in the sunshine of self-acceptance and let insecurity be damned.
“Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important…they do not mean to do harm…they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”
Feel the freedom.
Sister Helen Prejean, made famous by the movie Dead Man Walking, has dedicated her life to ending capital punishment and helping death row inmates and their victims. She believes that even men like Robert Willie, a brutal murderer, deserves to be seen and treated as “a son of God.”
Victims of brutality may, understandably, have difficulties with that.
In Forgiving the Dead Man Walking, Debbie Morris reveals her own struggle to forgive Robert Willie for kidnapping, raping, torturing, and attempting to murder her. Her book begs us to consider, “Is there any crime, any hurt, any person beyond the power of forgiveness?” When asked about her feelings on capital punishment, Debbie maintains that her healing didn’t come by the death of her tormentor, but rather by forgiving him.
Because we screw up more often than we think. Only time will reveal that:
1. We never really had it all figured out
2. We weren’t as together as we thought we were
3. There were always new things to learn from our enemies
4. More often than not, we passed judgement without sufficient information.
Confidence is good, but, it is better when tempered with this humility to admit perpetual blind spots, miscalculations, and imperfections.
BTW…for those like me who wrestle with self-confidence, I am not advocating a false humility, a constant belittling of ourselves, or calling ourselves idiots; rather a grounded self-image and freedom from having to defend ourselves, our position, or our self-worth all the time.
The difference between frivolous faith and practical faith is sometimes depicted in the saying, “Trust God but tie up your camels,” i.e. we can trust the camels won’t run away if we have done our due diligence. This is sound advice unless we continue tying up the camels and tying up the camels until the camels are not functional.
Questions to ask yourself about worry:
1) Have I been proactive to take care of my responsibilities to the best of my abilities and knowledge?
2) Am I willing to do whatever it takes to handle my problem?
3) Do I trust that the next step will come to me when I need it?
4) Can I let go now and be in the moment?
Otherwise, the camels won’t be worth riding.