So, a few years ago, I came across writer Alece Ronzino, who also loves Jesus, has been involved in ministry and has gone through a difficult divorce, and who started OneWord365. This is a concept where one may meditate, pray and have intention for a specific word to stand out to represent, color and be part of the lens for your coming year. Last year mine was Foundation, and I think, somehow, by God’s grace, there’s actually more foundation around me and under my feet than before, but the process was (like any foundation-laying) slow and painful and unglamorous. And this year, my word is Unfettered.
Unfettered, to me, is a word that has already been influencing my thoughts, intentions, decisions. Will this choice demonstrate that I believe I’m unfettered? Is this increasing my burden or filling my tank?
I was browsing for Scripture that spoke of being unfettered, I immediately came across the perfect one in The Message paraphrase: Matthew 6:26, which says, “Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to Him than birds.” I love this so much because I have always been the Songbird (my sister used to complain when I was a bitty baby and we shared a room: “Mom, Jana’s humming herself to sleep again!”), and have loved birds (um, thanks Portlandia), and maybe more than either of those things right now, the idea of being “not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God”—that absolutely fits where I am. I have multiple roles right now, not enough income, a billion passions, low energy and high ideals. It’s a weird combination, to be sure. I have felt overwhelmed for quite a while, and I know that doesn’t always change overnight, but my mindset is being shaped and transformed with this new theme: unfettered.
(photo by my sweet Daddy, Don Detrick)
I used to believe that it was my job to ignore my own feelings and needs in order to serve others. I still have every desire and intention to serve and be a blessing to others, but now, I want to be giving out of a different place. Nobody can drink from an empty well. Or as the brilliant Frederick Buechner put it in his powerful book Telling Secrets (an excerpt of which I was assigned to read for my Master’s Program, then I bought the whole book over break and am almost finished): “”Mind your own business” means butt out of other people’s lives because in the long run they must live their lives for themselves, but it also means pay mind to your own life, your own health and wholeness, both for your own sake and ultimately for the sake of those you love too. Take care of yourself so you can take care of them. A bleeding heart is of no help to anybody if it bleeds to death.”
As a pastor’s daughter, turned pastor, turned pastor’s wife, (now ex-pastor’s ex-wife, but don’t worry, that won’t go on my business card) it was understood that it was my duty to always be tending to others, to be in the spotlight, to be “on” and sensitive to the needs of others. I’ve been through a lot of loss, and in that, I have learned how I used to be so interested in what was happening with everyone, and wanted to gossip and know everything, but not so much anymore. When one goes through a major personal crisis, hopefully, we become tempered and want to learn to tend to our own lives and understand our own stories more, as this is the thing we are most responsible for and can control.
I’ve been tied down to job descriptions that were handed to me, or that I bridled myself with, and I’m here to tell you: no more! I’m not as interested in meeting the expectations of others as I am in being authentic to what I believe God has designed me for and is doing in me. Part of that work is what Buechner touched upon: my own health and wholeness. This will be an interesting journey, because as I mentioned it’s unfamiliar territory, but the longing and pull towards liberty and wholeheartedness is stronger. It’s a new season, and I’m ready to live into the word “unfettered” and allow it to bring healing and maturity, kindness, and ultimately, more hope, peace, joy and FREEDOM.
What about you? Do you have a word for 2017? Let’s do this, y’all—the world needs us to be our truest selves; there’s no replacement for you! P.S. My friend, it is NEVER too late to become free.