Monday, June 13, 2016

Living Wild and Free

It's easy to feel wild and free when you're sitting in front of the restless ocean waves.  It's funny.  When we used to go to Mexico for vacation, my definition of wild and free involved tequila shots and string bikinis.  Now, nine years later, at the same place we came as two young honeymooners, it's 6:00 am and I sit here on the beach with my toes in the sand, all alone, being still and waiting for the sunrise.  I face the ocean waves, watch the sun slowly rise to reveal another day, and feel the soft sand slip between my feet and I feel strong, independent, and fearless.  For a moment, I feel the boxes that typically keep me in my place and compartmentalize my life dissolve away, and I'm left with a wide open canvas waiting for God's hand to help me paint.  I yearn to live this ocean front way of life, one of reckless abandon, beyond my trip and into the world that awaits my return, but I struggle to know what that looks like and how I'm called to act.  

"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps."
-Proverbs 16:9

A couple weeks ago, I read Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan's book, Wild and Free, on the Mexican Riviera during a week of relaxation and much time for contemplation.  The book, which on the cover is described as "A hope-filled anthem for the woman who feels she is both too much and never enough," explores what it means for women today to live wild and free, as Jesus intends us to, in a world full of expectations, rules, and carefully drawn lines.  At first, I wasn't sure about this book, much to the fact that wild and free are two words I would definitely not use to describe myself.  But as I read and reread passages, highlighted entire pages of text, and prayed silently on the airplane for Jesus to breathe these words into existence into my life, I realized that I am exactly who this book is intended for.  At the beginning of the book, they look at Eve, the first woman created by God and for a short time, the only woman to ever live in perfect communion with her heavenly Father, uncomplicated and unhindered by her own insecurities or need for acknowledgement.  That Eve, before the sin and shame of that bite, was the woman God intended her to be.  So now, in our own sin, in this world that is hopelessly riddled with heavy burdens, how can we drown out the noise and hear a little more clearly?

I consumed this book at the perfect time, reading it during a week with little distractions and so much beauty around me.  This is when I am at my best.  I am a doer, and to the outside world, I work well under pressure and can achieve a lot in a given amount of time.  But this kind of living makes me feel overwhelmed, distracted, and stretched, and it's hard to find happiness living that way.  I am at my best when things are still and simple.  It is here when I feel most content, most happy, and most able to see the work Jesus is doing in my life and in those around me.  He is always in the details.  I loved Jess and Hayley's retelling of John 2, where Jesus wildly turned water into wine at a wedding.  He did this, not for the sake of drinking, but to proclaim His ability to miraculously perform wonders in the midst of the details --- "Open your heart and your eyes and take Him in - your wild God."  

This is what I did for a week.  I encountered women doing wild things and thanked God for making me a bystander and inspiring me through their stories.  One story that stuck out the most to Beau and I was at the Des Moines Airport the morning we flew out.  It was early, not even 7 yet, and we laughed together at how many people sat around us, completely oblivious to everything around them except for the screen on their phones.  Beau and I had vowed that we would free ourselves from any and all social media, email, blog, and text message consumption for our trip, and there's nothing like a break yourself to highlight our addiction to technology, in our own life and most of those around us.  So there we were, making conversation and people watching when we noticed a young girl, probaby 14 or 15, sitting by an older man with her head on his shoulder.  She was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and high top sneakers that were colored in with highlighters, her nose was pierced and her naturally curly blonde hair was pulled back high on her head.  After listening quietly to their conversation, we learned that she was sitting with her grandpa, who had been a big part of raising her for what seemed like most of her life.  He was a big man, and embodied the physical appearance and mannerisms of a trucker.  I don't remember much about him specifically, only his long beard because I noticed the girl playfully tug at it a couple of times and give him grief about shaving it while she was away.  I mostly remember the way she looked at him, her big scared eyes full of love and adoration for this man who has loved her and sacrificed much for her.

We learned she was hopping on a plane for the very first time, traveling to her mom who she hadn't seen in ten years.  She had a brother she had never met before, and a dad whom she talked about often in various bits and pieces, but must not be in a good place to be with her based on the grandpa's guarded and limited responses.  I have no idea what her story is, where she was going, or why she was away from her mom for so long, but I watched those last minutes of her chapter with her grandpa unfold, and prayed and prayed for her as she wildly and freely stepped on that jet bridge.  I listened to her playful conversation with this man who clearly meant the world to her, but noticed the fear in her eyes at the same time.  I wanted to hug her, to huddle in a corner and pray with her, to give her my book and tell her that God has already equipped her with all the armor she needs to live wild and free for him.  And as Beau and I watched her hug her grandpa, her tears streaming down her face, and watched him stay after for 45 minutes, standing by the window until he couldn't see that plane in the sky anymore, we hurt and hoped for them, for two strangers who we didn't even know their names.

I watched that girl, and felt sorrow for what she has missed and what she was leaving behind, but felt excited for her, for the opportunity she has to start a new journey of wild and free.  I laugh when I look at my life, for it's about as unwild and predictable as you could get.  I related to Jess's description of her life in the book as a one filled with "tightly organized systems and plans."  I meticulously plan my to-do list, which includes everything from work events to cleaning schedules, family outings and blog posts.  Meal plans are etched weeks in advance, Pinterest pins are managed and monitored, and I thrive when rhythms are established for our nights, our weekends, and when we see our friends.  I carry the responsibility of keeping this family (and sometimes what feels like the world) in motion.  I am a rule-follower, a people pleaser, and feel that I thrive within a box, one that I can oversee and control.  It's sort of as if I live in a big dot-to-dot picture.  The dot-to-dot isn't easy to complete, it's challenging and full of big steps and lots of hard work to get from one dot to the next, but the dots are known and controlled.  Get straight As, become class president, date a football player, have long hair and wear Abercrombie, go to college, make Dean's list, meet a boy, get married, get a master's, have a baby, have another baby, get a doctorate, build a house, plan vacations, etc. etc. etc. While the idea of living wild and free sounds appealing and refreshing in so many ways, I realized when I read this book that I fail to let God be bigger than my dot-to-dot life.  I feel the need to control my life and put up boxes because I lack faith and trust.  Meanwhile, God is patiently waiting for me to trust Him and believe that He has my best interests in mind.  In fact, he can do immeasurably more than I can imagine.  Sometimes I wonder what God could actually do with me if I stop trying to limit his power and control so much on my own.  But boy, I struggle with knowing how to wad up that blueprint and let him in.  What does wild and free look like in my life?

I start to consider what this might look like when I look for the threads of where God has been wild in my life alreadyTimes when my path didn't quite go as expected, when my predictable life was thrown off course and I was left to lean on something a lot bigger than myself.  Lately, I have been considering what my picture might look like if I don't follow those carefully outlined dots that connect one to the other.  What if I don't continue my doctorate, what if instead I invest that time in my church or my community?  What if it's as small as letting go of my need for perfection and learning to open my door as a place for impromptu get togethers, a place for people to come as they are, battered and broken and real?  What if it's sharing how Jesus is working in my life more openly with others, in my workplace, with my husband, with other women around me?  What if it's giving up the devices that dictate how I should act and live and evaluate what I consume every day?  Living wild and free doesn't mean I have to start a nonprofit, move to a third world country, or abandon my weekly to-do list entirely, but it does mean reconsidering areas of my life that haven't made room for Jesus to step in and do his thing. 

I am a work in progress and have a long ways to go when it comes to living more wild and free as a woman today.  And currently, my wild and free is telling me to take a step back and be still.  Abide and wait for Jesus to move.  I'm ending this post with this passage, one that inspires me so much, especially when I feel unsure of what actions I need to take to live the way Jesus wants me to live:

"Ladies when we flip the script and remember who the main character is, it takes the pressure off us.  We get to lay down that burden of getting it right, because God's already got this - completely.  It's not that we have to live for God; it's that we get to live for God.  It's not that we have to serve Him; it's that we get to serve Him.  It's not that He wants more from us; it's that He wants more for us.  
You are the real work, and it is already finished.  God does not need you to do something big for Him, and He doesn't need you to fulfill your part.  But in His great love, He has prepared works for you, according to Ephesians 2:10, and He intentionally crafted you with gifts because He wants that life of giving and serving for you.  He knows you're the most you when you're living out the calling He has given you.  He knows the enemy is quieted when your loving is loud.  He knows the ache that wonders what on earth you're here for.  He's already prepared all of that and made a way, through the power of the Holy Spirit, for you to walk with Him and serve Him.  

You are not a tool but a treasure.  You are not a pawn but an appointed ambassador of a holy nation.  Once you've tasted God's vision of wild and free, you begin to feel the urgency of His call to something more.  God is on a mission to stage a kingdom-size wild and free takeover, and you are invited to be part of this good work."

Amen, sisters.  Go be wild and free, just the way God intended you to be.       


No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...