When Freedom Sucks

There is a girl in the Bible.

She is a slave.

She has a spirit that tells the future. And her masters make loads of money off her.

And she meets Paul and Silas (two men in the Bible who go around and preach about Jesus and Freedom in the New Testament), and they set her free. The spirit leaves her body, and she is free.

I’m stuck in this story. I keep thinking, her freedom…no matter how freeing…must have felt so weird and so wrong and so lonely…so unimportant, and unwanted and useless…so unloved. This freedom, handed out by God, must have felt like a punch in the gut. The moment of freedom, she was just a girl…just an ordinary slave girl. One moment she was a slave with a gift…the next, just an ordinary slave. I think about her all the time.

This is the story of a girl who has been set free. This is the story of an ordinary girl who misses the rules somedays. This is my story. Maybe it’s a little like your story too…Maybe not…
I was driving Jake to his job watching our neighbor’s chickens. Jake is my oldest. And we were in one of those rare moments where it is just the two of us. We were listening to Smashing Pumpkins, and Jake says, “Remember when you used to only listen to Christian music? You were so weird. You were trying to be perfect and have perfect kids. You were a basic Facebook Mom.”

I was a little caught off guard, but not really. I mean, I was an asshole for Jesus, y’all. Pushy with my kids and the way they looked at church…I’m talking huge arguments about collared shirts on a regular basis. No other music other than “Jesus Music” in my car. Everything I did had to point to Jesus too. I mean, we couldn’t just have any ordinary moments…everything could be turned to point to Him…And God forbid, Grace wear a bikini (I mean, she was only 4…or 5…or 6…But modesty starts early). And God forbid, my children not WANT to go to church. And God forbid even more my husband didn’t want to…And what if I wanted to just have some rest and relaxation with a side of laughter and Sir Mix A Lot circa 1992???? What if I wanted to do something just for fun or frivolous or just meet a stranger without telling them about Jesus. What if???? Y’all. This was not ok.

I told other folks, “Sometimes Jesus wants us to be exhausted.” And being exhausted for Jesus felt so good.

I lived my life in this crazy overdrive. I lived my life where every moment had to matter the most. I lived my life where I could not fail, and every hard moment and tough time needed a pretty Jesus package with scripture and a smile. And you don’t miss church ever. And you are only praying for things Jesus would think is good enough. And you are trying to tithe and lying if you can’t. And drinking at certain times and in certain places but only with certain people. And you are feeling guilty all the time because you let your kids watch PG-13 movies and you LOVE Sons of Anarchy and you are there on Sundays at 8am for worship, 9:30 for Sunday School and 11:00 to teach. And my family was drowning. But I was whisper screaming through my teeth to keep the fucking smile on your face or Jesus and all His people might find out about our bullshit.

And our bullshit???? Oh it was just my husband and my kids wanting to choke me out so they could maybe just get to the business of having fun and enjoying life and maybe actually liking Jesus. Or even being angry. Just angry for longer than a worship song. The Hooks House kinda sucked those days.

Life has passed and crashed and burned since those days. Maybe you have been there. Maybe you know what it’s like to suffer such enormous loss you just can’t do anything anymore…you just can’t…Maybe you lost a home, a baby, a marriage, a dream and it all came crashing down…And maybe someone loved you enough to force you into weekly counseling. Maybe. And slowly, with the help of an amazing counselor, your best friend, Jesus, and your “over it” husband…Maybe you just get free. You have nothing left to offer, so freedom is your reward.

Sometimes I miss all the rules. My family was in khakis and dresses and their butts were at church. I miss knowing what I had to do to be the best Christian wife and mother and servant to everyone everywhere. I miss being able to define my life by rules…it was harder…but sometimes, it was way easier too.

I knew what to lie about and what to hide. I knew how to live just enough on the edge to be “salty”. I knew how to get my children to say the things I needed them to say…so other people could hear them…and screw it all if they didn’t understand a bit. I knew how to be first. And yes, it makes other people last. And freedom, well, it doesn’t come with rules…it comes with real. And why is that so dang hard for me?

Shame loves a prison y’all. A big fake old prison. And freedom can’t live in prison. Even if the prison is real polite and real pretty y’all.

Freedom for me is a little church in South Austin. I like to call it “The Island of Misfit Toys”. Freedom is a broken little Bible Study in my home on Tuesday nights filled with wine and tears and laughter and cuss words and folks who are having the hard conversations with no answers. Freedom is my husband choosing to sleep in…and no one giving him shit…including me. Freedom is my kids listening to some really good music, and introducing me to some really good music, and knowing they aren’t perfect, and not asking them to fake it either.

Freedom is being ok with being ok. Freedom is knowing Jesus is madly in love with our ok selves too.

So, let me encourage you…no, let me make you a promise…You are free. You may not know it, but you already are. You are free and loved. You don’t have to work any longer to be the best or the first or the most. And if the rules were your ladder to success, well freedom may suck a bit…But freedom makes us all equal. None of us can work harder than anyone else to earn Jesus’ love. Because it’s free y’all. And He just hands this love out like He has plenty for everyone. Because He does y’all. And we all become equally loved and equally ordinary and equally precious in His sight. And all the sleepy spouses finally say, “Amen.”

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