I like to step into every new year with a specific focus in mind. This year my theme was “Live Free”. Truth be told, I would have to say that from 2014 – 2015 I have spent much of my “public life” walking on eggshells and being hyper-vigilant about things I say or do as not to offend. Maybe this is the INFJ in me, because I really do care so deeply about the feelings of others, almost to a fault.
However, I felt like I reached the point where I wasn’t being true to myself and would constantly censor myself when I would feel that my questions or musings started going ever so slightly against the grain. Every time I would silence myself when I would see injustices peeking in (specifically revolving around gender equality in the church) I would die a little more inside.
2016 was going to be the year that I was going to be bold, not for the sake of making waves or causing disunity, but because I could no longer be silent. There was a primal rage deep within me that had been stirring for some time now. A holy fury at the indifference that slowly began to become evident all around me, like a fog that wouldn’t lift. Suddenly I began to identify with Guy Montag’s exasperation to apathy.
“We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?”
-Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
I started to realize that there was something rotten in the state of Evangelical Land and resistance was not welcome. And it was not welcomed with a smile, a membership card, and a volunteer sign up sheet. Where is the conversation in all of this? I wanted so badly to sit down and “reason together”. This time I couldn’t let something so central to not only my faith, but my humanity be reduced to some uncomfortable crumbs to be swept under the complementarian rug.
My year of living free has not been this cathartic release of suddenly being able to show the world who I really am. Living free is choosing to stand up for what is right when it would have been so much easier to let it be and look the other way.
To live free is to love, but not join arms with those who staunchly oppose full equality in the church and the world. Walking away from a community that I loved, but could no longer link arms with was hard, but looking in the mirror was harder still.
One of the most difficult things I faced this year were all the ways that I have hindered others from living free. It’s a cold, hard stare in the mirror to realize that the bondage you are running away from was once your own finger pointing at someone else. There are so many times that I wanted to dig my head in the sand as I began to recount the faces of so many friendships lost because of my own close-minded, all or nothing approach to what I thought was speaking “truth in love” in the name of Jesus.
The disaster of this election season was the microscope that revealed that the person I used to be reflected a hollow, counterfeit Jesus who cared about the outcasts of this world in word, but not in deed. I found myself wondering how I could go so many years being apathetic about issues that are so close to God’s heart. In a way I feel this election cycle has been a litmus test of sorts for the Evangelical Church, in which many feel their days of living free are numbered.
Living free wrecks everything. It will cost you pride, bondage, being right, and it might even cost you your religion. I suspect that living free doesn’t look the same for everyone. For me, living free meant that the Evangelical Church and I had to have a trial separation because I just couldn’t find Jesus anymore. When you can finally see that it is for freedom that you have been set free, you never want to be the source of that bondage for anyone ever again. When you taste that freedom for yourself you don’t know how to live any other way.