I’ve been thinking and talking a lot about goal setting and dreaming lately. As I embark on new endeavors, ones that even just a year ago I wouldn’t have thought could be a reality, I am really taken with the concept of freedom.
Freedom to try new things, fail at times, and go back to things done in the past – this is an incredible thing.
We are all fighting battles in our lives. Some are battles for health, security, financial peace, better relationships, etc… Some are for our inner being. The fight to be who we desire to be and are meant to be, is constant.
I’ve been working on a few things to keep me grounded, focused, and invested on what matters in the process of shaping me to be the best version of myself. These are things I am striving towards. Questions I am reminding myself to ask of God, myself, my people, and the other humans around me. I want to make it clear that this is a process. This is not something I have mastered. Every time I remember to do these things, I find myself feeling more freedom to be who I am. Freedom. What a beautiful thing.
- I’ve been asking questions of God, and expecting answers. Much of my time as a teenager was spent trying to meet expectations and follow rules. I truly desired to serve well and to be what people needed or asked me to be. This included everyone from family, to friends, to acquaintances, to God. I was determined to be the ultimate example of Christ – at least the version of him I had cultivated in my head. What ultimately occurred, however, was a deep rooted shame and guilt trigger that told me I had to be helping someone else to be succeeding. I also had to have the praise of said people in order to know in my heart that I was successful.Along with this servant role, I had in my head that I had to believe everything that was told to me by people I should respect. I had deep respect for leaders in church, my public school teachers, and other adults I interacted with in other spheres of influence. There was always a clashing of ideologies that would leave me feeling like a failure, because I couldn’t piece it all together. I couldn’t make sense of the stark differences between what my science teacher KNEW to be true, and what my pastor (who was also my dad) KNEW to be true. Instinctually, I held firmly to the beliefs of my parents. I clung to them like a lifeboat. I fought hardest for their affirmation, praise, and assurance that I was doing everything right and serving as best I could.For so many years I missed out on the freedom of truly knowing Christ as friend, as mentor, as life partner. For so many years I denied myself the freedom of asking questions of God and trusting Him for answers – rather than spooning in information from people I felt compelled to believe. It shifted in my life from my parents, to the pastor I was employed by, to the elders of a church, and on and on. I struggled my way through college classes with the same nagging doubts, insecurities, and fears – but clung to the ideologies that were most comfortable.
It wasn’t until I really started to allow myself the freedom to ask God “Who are you actually?” “What do you actually want from me?” “Why do people have such drastically different views of you?” etc.. that I began to sense freedom’s true ringing in my life.
I’m finding that God answers my questions in strange places, posts by authors I would never have thought to read pop up at just the right time, messages from individuals I never would have thought to message come in prompting important dialogue, conversations arise with unexpected people. Words leap of pages or out of speakers and radically readjust my vision and provide clarity. He answers. In strange and exhilarating new ways each time I will myself to really search, to really dig for answers and to really find the freedom of Christ we so often speak about in Christian spheres.
Here are some practical questions to ask of God as we fight for freedom and our identities:
-What is your desire for me? — Don’t settle for an easy answer, talk this out with Him.
-Are you who I think you are?
-Are there things I have been getting wrong that are causing me to miss out on freedom in relationship with You?
-In what ways are you proud of me? — THIS. This one. This one gives me weepies. I forget so often that He made me and is proud of me. Ask for revelation on this.
- I’ve been asking questions of myself, and expecting answers. It’s funny how this is something I have had to work hard at. It seems like one should know themselves so well, yet I have been finding that as I ask myself questions – I often don’t have immediate answers. This stems back to my incessant need to serve, help, and be with other people. I have spent very little of my life actually asking myself what I want, what I think, and what I know.I didn’t realize this until very recently. One of the resources I have been using to aid me in this process is a set of books by Moorea Seal – The 52 List Project & 52 Lists For Happiness. Each book is literally 52 prompts to gain knowledge of self and to practice asking meaningful questions of yourself that will propel you towards health and wholeness. There have been many pages that I have left blank to return to later, because I honestly wasn’t sure what my dream vacations were, or what the wildest things I would want to accomplish are.I was disturbed at my lack of answers right away. I was discouraged and frustrated. I had to give myself grace, and recognize that as I walk in freedom to be who I am – I have to learn to expect answers from myself at whatever pace they might come.
Here are some practical questions to ask of ourselves as we fight for freedom and our identities:
-What 5 things can get me excited about life no matter what?
-Who has inspired me most in my life so far? — What was it about them?
-When have I felt like the most free and whole version of myself? — Make a specific list of what it was about this time / phase that made you feel like this.
- I’ve been asking questions of my people, and expecting answers. This one is the most enjoyable, and comes the most naturally to my Enneagram 2 self. I love to invest in my loved ones by asking them to share their hearts. It’s such a helpful practice to go into conversations with the intentions of encouraging someone else’s dreams and affirming their goals.Here are some practical questions to ask of our people as we fight for freedom and our identities:
-What was one thing you accomplished this last week that got you really excited?
-What was the last thing you saw that inspired you on some level?
-What have you done to really invest in yourself?
- I’ve been asking questions of strangers, and expecting answers. Social media has recently become a much bigger and more important platform for me. I have realized the beauty to be found in reaching out to individuals whose feeds I resonate with, or am stirred by to ask questions, connect, and learn from. I have also come to truly appreciate and look forward to conversations with people I do not know well, especially those whose beliefs differ drastically from mine.It has been so freeing to realize that the amount of experiences, lifestyles, and ideas out there aren’t as scary as I once thought – really they are an opportunity to find and fight for freedom, truth, and dreams.
I am committed to doing the hard work that comes with understanding who I am at my most free. I am committed to learning from the resources available to grow and change and shift as necessary.
Here are some practical questions to ask of strangers as we fight for freedom and our identities:
-What makes you tick? — Inspirations, beliefs, etc…
-How do you invest in yourself?
-What one piece of advice would you give to people who are trying to dream and set goals and find out who they are?
I love the idea that as we ask questions, expecting answers – we can shape our lives and mold our hearts in positive ways. Too often we get stuck in the ruts of what we think we know – in the resources we are comfortable with – and we forget that people need people and the world is over flowing with passion and beauty and hearts that are all beating for freedom. Individuals who are all battling for their identities, their truest selves.
What if we approached God with more honesty?
What if we approached ourselves with higher positive expectations but also more grace for the unknowns?
What if we approached our loved ones with the intention of serving healthily and wholly?
What if we approached human beings with more grace, more sincerity, more genuine curiosity?
Freedom. That’s what we would find. Freedom to grow and to change and to learn who we are and what we are made of.
Do the hard work.
Invest in God. Invest in yourself. Invest in your people. Invest in human beings.
It all matters.
Push on, friends.