Have you ever felt like your own stubborn, irrational heart is standing in the way of experiencing greater freedom your rational mind knows full well is available to you? Sometimes I imagine freedom and healing like a ripe piece of fruit, just hanging there on a branch or vine, waiting to be picked and eaten, if I can only bring myself to reach out my hand, pluck the fruit, and take a bite.
In a recent prayer time, I found my attention drawn to the phrase “set aside as his very own” in John 10:36, which in The Message is paraphrased as “consecrated.” I was surprised that the emotions that came up for me as I pondered the phrase were not peace and confidence as I expected but instead were anxiety and doubt. I realized that I put a great deal of pressure on myself to live up to a set of very, very high expectations.
Now, that’s not exactly a new realization since I’m well aware of my tendency toward over-responsibility and perfectionism. The new realization was that, in contemplating my relationship to God, these high expectations I’m always working so hard to meet are actually my own expectations for myself–not God’s expectations for me!
I sensed an invitation to let go of my unrealistic and unnecessarily demanding expectations for myself and replace them with God’s unique calling on my life, trusting that God’s expectations are most beneficial (literally good-doing).
Like that fruit hanging on the vine, God’s invitation toward healing and freedom was ripe and ready for the taking. But as much as my mind said, “Take it,” my heart wasn’t ready to reach out. I wasn’t yet willing to let go. I wasn’t yet willing to trust.
But as I searched my heart for a way forward, I acknowledged that, yes, I was at least willing to be willing.
And so I found myself at a lovely, deserted public labyrinth (pictured above) on a cool morning. As I made my way toward the center, I walked with closed fists and thought of all the expectations I place on myself.
In the center of the labyrinth, I sat down on the bench for a time, squeezing my fists. Then slowly, I unclenched as a sign to myself and to God that I was choosing to be willing to begin letting go so that there would be space to receive.
With hands now open and empty, I made my way back out of the labyrinth, this time reminding myself of all the ways God has demonstrated faithfulness in my life. When I reached the opening–that truly sacred, liminal space between the intentional walk and the ordinary walk–I again made a choice to carry with me the intention I began in the labyrinth. I stepped across the threshold into the dewy grass and went back to my car.
Nothing very amazing happened that morning in the labyrinth. I didn’t have a mystical experience. I didn’t experience a sudden rush of freedom and healing. But I did notice a slight shifting beginning in me. With greater awareness and with intention and choice, I took a step toward being willing. And then another.
May you sense the presence of God with each step you take, my fellow pilgrims, toward the freedom and healing we are all being invited to experience on this journey of ours toward home.