Wednesday, February 15, 2017

When Freedom Comes

By Maggie Bartlett

One morning when I was 22 years old, I sat at breakfast with a close friend who spent years of her life pouring into me. She asked, “What do you want to change in you by next year? Where do you want to see growth?”

I responded, “I want to learn to be raw and messy, and be ok with my rawness and messiness.”

Though, when I thought about inviting friends into the real stuff, I withdrew, crippled by fear. I didn’t want to expose my bitterness, my jealousy, my pride, my need. What would they think if I asked for help? If I was honest? But I wondered, if I didn’t let others in on that messiness, then what did that mean for Jesus? Could he heal and redeem if I only gave Him and others pieces of my heart?

That’s when I realized I needed help. 

I didn’t want to be the kind of girl who sat with my best friend, feeling like my life was hanging on by a thread, bullets flying my way, broken and bruised saying, “Everything is great! I’m fine!”

I turned to friends. I told them my heart was broken, that I was angry and felt abandoned by the Lord. I handed shattered pieces of myself to the Lord, asking for help. 

Slowly, I shed layers of loneliness, fear, and anxiety. 

Over time and through rich relationships, He relentlessly worked to free me from personal and external expectations. He whispered that I was free from fear, free to make mistakes, free to have my heart broken and give it away again. I found freedom.

I knew I was making progress because a few months after my breakfast with my friend I gave a talk exposing myself, unafraid of what anyone thought. I was standing in a room full of goofy, loud high school kids and I started like this: “Let me let you in on a secret. It’s one I don’t like to keep to myself…I’m not perfect.”

I shared a story that I had never shared with anyone. I punched my 16-year-old brother in the nose, causing him to storm out of the car and march down the road in fury and hurt, blood gushing from his nose. Then, I said that Jesus wanted to be in my imperfections, even my temper tantrums; he wanted all of us, not just the pretty stuff.

“It is for freedom, he set us free.” - Galatians 5:1 

I know the damage caused by hiding, the weight of carrying suffering alone. I’m still prone to keep up appearances, especially as a woman, intimated by who thinks this or who has what or who is wearing that. Terrified to impose or ask for help. Tangled up in comparison, stifled by fear.

It requires courage and bravery to hand our broken hearts to friends and to the Lord, but this act of truthfulness and surrender is rewarded with freedom. I’ve witnessed the power of a friend saying “Me too” or “I know” and how in that raw, tender moment Jesus can silence the lies and nudge me toward grace. 

When we live out of the love that freed us, when we invite others into our hurt, we release the expectations of who we think we’re supposed to be, embracing the truth of who we are and giving others permission to do the same. 

Let’s live unrestrained, allowing others to see our imperfections and beauty and give Jesus the space he needs to rescue, redeem and delight our souls.

Maggie Bartlett is a Colorado native, living in Denver with her husband. She works in marketing for an agency and loves to write, climb mountains and explore in her free time.

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