Negotiations in the Liberation Pendulum
This all started with a title idea. Me trying to put a word fence around the chaos of this past year, to ease my soul, still aching from the whiplash of to and fro.
The Shifting Place.
The Shakeup Year. Year? Years. Let’s be real.
This idea of shaking off the structure you were born with, understanding the human tendency to categorize and prioritize and strategize all the oxygen out of process. Of understanding that there’s a lot of insidious lies that I’ve been told about myself in one way or another. And now having those exposed, seeing where I’ve absorbed them, stepping out of them…and determining what freedom looks like.
Right now, in layman’s terms (if said layman loves Mike Nichols as much as I do), I’m Elaine Robinson at the end of The Graduate. I’m looking up at someone banging on the glass, screaming, and I’m screaming back. I’m running out of a church full of conflict and dysfunction. Hell, I’m the banging-on-glass Ben Braddock, too, running until my legs give out, giving the content of my lungs to get people I love out of there. I’m both of them, locking the door with a cross and fleeing the chaos to hop on the bus ride out of there, delirious, mad...
And then, when I catch my breath…staring ahead in the back of that bus, smiles fading, the question of the ages: now what?
Freedom in its poetic pictures is a wide-open space, is laughing and running in an open field. But freedom in its cyclic form necessitates the occasional stage of revolt, following a time where I have been repressed by myself or others—and in reality it’s always a combination of the two.
I know that I’m standing in this very particular place because at the age of twenty-six, I’m still very much in the identity formation phase of life. I’m leaving the village in some ways. So many ways. I’m figuring out some of the person I’m going to be for the rest of my life.
And my faith is a big part of my life.
In fact, during this season, it’s been one of the only things that’s carried me through absolutely. But that faith is and has been in process, and I don’t believe a lot of things that I used to believe. And some new beliefs have come to take their place.
So I’ve discarded many things, and I’ve picked up some new ones, and I’ve been hearing a lot of things about fluidity and about gray areas and the Thomas Merton idea of the fallacy of either-or, and the third choice we never really see that comes from holding both in our hand.
I am acutely aware at this moment of not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. But what if this baby was never even my baby? What if it’s not a baby at all? I don't know. I think I may have lost that metaphor.
What is it to be liberated? And can I trust myself as my own liberator? Because there I am, and there I am, and there I am, standing right in my own way.
I’m always in a cycle of "I’ve been repressed, I’ve felt shame, I need to be free, I need to find truth, not just go along with what everyone said I’m supposed to do." But at the same moment, I don’t want to be someone who’s ruled by my desires, someone who just follows my own pleasure, I don’t want to be someone who makes an idol of comfort.
And there is a reality that in pursuing my own freedom, I have to grapple with the question of what does freedom really mean? Freedom is not sating every thirst. Freedom is knowing where the real stream runs, the one with the good water.
It’s always inspired me in Psalm 23 that Psalm 23 is such a prayer of rest, reflection, and restoring who you really are. I love “he makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters.” But what’s always spoken to me most, especially in this season of life where I’m trying to articulate my soul, trying to live where is best to take of my soul, and to live in such a way that I’m able to care better for the souls around me—is that "He restores my soul."
He restores the core of me. That’s what I want. The core.
I think to be in this place is to accept humanity. To accept that every one of us is influenced and hampered and selfish but also capable of great love, great jo--and has a story to tell.
And I want to hear the stories around me, understand their influences and factor that in, but I also want to be a textured enough person to hear everything and understand that there might be some truth I need to take amidst a lot of things that offend me, but I also need to be wary of those things that offend me, and why. And what, on the flip side, do I trust?
I tend to write a lot of these pieces from a semi-secular place because I don’t want to divide people in my life into camps. But I guess this whole piece is about camps and bubbles, like I’ve written before.
But now…I’m in it. Because some of the camps I’m about to leave, or have left. And now I’m really coming to the place of foundation, of bare essentials: my faith is real, my relationship with God is the thing I’m fighting to put first, because He’s the one who I can trust above all others to guide me to his truth.
And yes, I need community to help understand Him better. But I also need to have at least a quadrant of a tribe who understands gray, who understands texture, who supports other people like myself seeking to find that kind of understanding.
It’s strange to have this experience of being torn at the seams when in this current political climate. I know this is something that happens normally for people who are my age, but it’s very strange to have the feeling of it being amplified on a national or global level really, where it seems everyone is coming to the end of themselves, everyone is having that moment of “No, I won’t stand for this.” And as much as I’m experiencing this internally, my prayer for this nation is that we could all figure out this balance together.
It’s hard for me to even say without laughing at my own idealism because there’s so much hopelessness in this nation at this moment that sometimes I can’t even talk about it. But I have to keep talking about it. And I have to acknowledge that there is something to the end of the rope moment on this level that I think will help us.
And the challenge is, this road is unseen. This is the leap of faith. Standing out on what feels like a precipice and jumping off. One moment you feel free, you feel the wind on your face. The next—you really, really wonder if you’re going to fly, or if death awaits you. If a more crushing pain than you ever thought you could withstand is right ahead.
This is the adventure I asked for. I’m standing in it right now. So there I am, wanting to run back, back, and back into an older version of me. And I have to forgive myself if I yield here. I have to forgive myself, because then that will be part of the story. All things are redeemable.
But do I believe that I could be strong enough, that I could be brave enough to be in the worst place a little bit longer?
Could I believe in myself enough to get to the person I am on the other side of this? The person I’ve been asking to become for so long—myself?
I don't know. But I know this--I can articulate a clear turning point in November 2016, in the days after the election, where I said to myself, "That's it. You're done worrying about what people think. From this moment on, you start telling the truth. You start standing up for the marginalized. There is not a single moment that can afford to be wasted."
I've made so many promises like this to myself over a lifetime, and most are unkept--but this one's been different. No, I haven't done it all right. And there has been much lost along the way. But I think most, if not all of it, was supposed to go.
And I'm different now. I'm not the little girl who was terrified she'd never have friends, that she'd be alone, so she tried to mold to what they wanted. I am myself in process.
Yes, much of this process has been lonely. But for what is to breathe free, pursuing love and truth--I don't regret getting on this bus for a minute.