I just finished the book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. I read the book for the instructions on writing part, but I fell in love with the insights on life that are woven throughout the book. I would recommend it to my writer and non-writer friends alike. One thing that she wrote really struck a chord with me. She writes: “Toni Morrison said, ‘The function of freedom is to free someone else,’ and if you are no longer wracked or in bondage to a person or a way of life, tell your story. Risk freeing someone else.”
When I read that phrase, I had to put the book away for awhile and process. Shouldn’t that be one of our main goals as people who love Jesus? He freed us from slavery to sin. He liberated us from a life of defeat and despair. He led us to escape the grip of fear. Shouldn’t the natural response to our freedom then be to lead others to that same freedom? Or, have we become so used to our freedom–or so far removed from our bondage that we forget what it feels like? I think we often forget how much power there is in freedom.
How do we help lead others to freedom? One of the simplest ways is exactly what Lamott points out, tell our story. When we tell our stories, we gain power over them, no longer imprisoned by hurt and shame. I have a friend who has had opportunities to share her story at a women’s retreat and churches. It is a beautiful story that she tells not only through her own experience, but also though the story of Gomer in the Old Testament. She shares how Hosea continued to love and pursue Gomer when she kept running from him just like God kept pursuing her when she was running. Her honesty and transparency is creating a path for others to the God that is pursuing them too. If we are free, then we should be blazing the trail for others with our war paint on and our weapons raised screaming “freedom!” We do that by telling our stories to anyone who will listen -to anyone that we know who who is still bound.
Instead, we lock away our stories and experiences like a teenage girl holding her diary tightly against her chest – protecting her secrets from being revealed. Only by releasing our grip can we experience true freedom. Galatians 5:1 says: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” When we continue to hold on to our pain, hurt and shame in fear of what people may think, we are putting on that yoke again. And as long as we continue to hide our stories away, we aren’t leading those we know to the one that can permanently remove that yoke for them.