Interior freedom is not something you can fake. You know it if you have it. It is also neither static nor comprehensive.
I have more conscious in recent years of the areas of unfreedom in me. I suppose this is because small areas of freedom have been etched out. Knowing what true freedom is even in a very small interaction means I have a touchstone. I know the flavour and texture of interior freedom, so I know it when I don’t have it.
As I have uncovered a space where I know I am not free, I have begun to simply pay attention. To become curious about the hooks. What is it that has me fearful or defensive? What is the invitation?
Gently leaning into the discomfort, having the conversations I need to have, praying for grace where I need it, and holding the stories I have told myself to make sense of my world very lightly. Slowly, slowly, slowly, there has been an increase in interior freedom.
It isn’t an easy journey, and no one can do it on your behalf. But it really is well worth it.
I’ve been thinking about the idea of truth telling. We encourage our kids to tell the truth. But maybe we need to think about our vocabulary. One of the images I use in The Grace of Forgiveness is given below.
I must have stumbled across this image some time in late 2015 and I am still chewing on it.
I think it is beginning to dawn on me that actually not one of us is capable of speaking the truth. Yes, we should be honest. Yes, we should exact as much honesty as we can muster from the depths of our being.
But my commitment to honesty will only ever give me the best approximation of the orange square or the black circle. I need someone else speaking from their perspective to begin to glimpse the bigger truth.
Can it be that I will never see the complexity of the cylinder?
What happens if I surrender to that possibility and commit myself to both seeing and articulating the orange square to the best my ability, and to listening to you as you describe the black circle.
What happens then?
I think it is the beginning of something truly exciting.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been slowly savouring Larry Kaufmann’s book ‘Keep it light: Praying through suffering into joy’. In his chapter on forgiveness he likens the phrase from the Our Father ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’ to the terms and conditions of a contract.
As I mulled over this idea alongside another which has been with me a few days since a friend and I were talking about forgiveness. What struck me in the conversation with the friend is that one cannot truly forgive and assume the moral high ground. The two are actually mutually exclusive.
For me, the major key to unlocking my own capacity to forgive was discovering that I had caused harm to another. I learnt to forgive in no small part because I knew I was culpable of harming someone.
The combination of these two ideas seems to me to indicate the reason that this is a part of the Our Father. Once we learn how to forgive seeking the moral high ground loses its appeal. Forgiveness requires a level of honesty and humility which is incompatible with judgement.
If we are called to grow towards unconditional love, surely forgiveness (both giving and receiving) is the gateway.
One of the things I think we deeply desire and deeply fear as humans is to be seen for who we are. This year for me has been one where I have been invited into that vulnerable space of revealing myself over and over and over again.
In almost every circumstance I have discovered compassion, love and acceptance. More importantly, the choice to allow myself to be vulnerable has proved a pivotal moment certainly for me, but oftentimes for those with whom I am interacting.
In the end I have discovered, in a way I never expected, that I can be myself, fully myself, in all my quirky awkwardness, and be deeply loved and appreciated. The deep truth is that no one expects any more of me. The pain of the desire for me to be more than I am is mine. I am profoundly limited, as are we all.
2017 for me has been learning that if I can own my limitations, others can own theirs. And once we get there, then we can really benefit from each others giftedness.
I’ll sign off with a picture – it was taken by my friend Kate – I got to see her for 36 hours which included 2 hours at 4 year olds birthday party (not her child). I sat outside the party room reading a book. And Kate and I and her son all had a good time. I could be myself, and Kate could do the thing she needed to do for her family. In that moment, neither of us needed the other to be other. This is the gift of real friendship.