I bought a bracelet the other day at High Cotton, a Manchester boutique filled with trinkets and trophies of Southern grace and charm. I was looking for a treasure. I found it.
Stamped metal. A variety of colors. Two words.
After browsing the other hand-crafted jewelry, scented candles, and one-of-a-kind finds, I made my way to the counter, somewhat reluctantly. I didn’t want my quest to end, but I was satisfied. I enjoyed my treasure hunt, especially because what I found was inscripted with the motto of my life.
“I knew you’d like that,” the owner said, carefully placing my bracelet in a bag. “It has you written all over it.”
And indeed it did, literally, stamped in the metal — FREE SPIRIT.
I have fought hard for the right to call myself a free spirit. I think about a lyric from one of my favorite Eagles songs “Already Gone”:
So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains / And we never even know we have the key.
The key to my freedom, oddly enough, is that I have had to learn to set up boundaries around my life. It’s what we all must do if we truly want to be free. And I’m still learning. Still learning.
Without these boundaries, we allow intruders to enter our space, our minds, our homes, our hearts. They steal those things we value most — our creativity, our time, our confidence, our peace, our joy, our resources, our choices, our dignity.
We live in chains when we allow others to define who we are and who we want to become. Nobody wants to be labeled. Sometimes we feel forced, destined to live up to the label. The only people who have the right to label who are are and who we are to become are ourselves. Labels chain us to a self-fulfilling prophecy.
What if God has a wonderful destination for us, yet we choose to be chained to a vision of what others think we are supposed to be?
Young people, for example, often enter college with a plan to major in a field their parents deem acceptable. But will they be happy? Will they spend their lives chained to someone else’s dreams?
I say find a job you love so that you’ll never have to work a day in your life.
Sometimes we’re on our merry way to our aspirations only to be hijacked into taking a guilt trip with a driver who demands we give up our free time to work on a project we’re not vested in.
Serving is honorable, but why give and grumble at the same time? We can’t be two places at once. While we’re busy being people pleasers, we may miss our opportunity to meet our calling. It’s okay to say “no.”
“No,” is a little bitty word with two little bitty letters, yet “no” is a mighty fortress that protects us all. “No” is our key. “No” helps us establish boundaries, and “boundaries” protect our freedom.
Other people invade our space, cross our boundaries, hurt our hearts, maybe even our bodies, in a multitude of ways. Our dignities are precious, so is our confidence. These space invaders may go as far as being bullies. While bullying is a hot topic these days, we must realize it’s not limited to the playground.
Bullying takes place in the home, in the work place, among friends. We must, must, must establish our boundaries. Our freedom depends on it. We can say no to the thieves who take away our dreams, our safety, our happiness, our confidence, our time, our security, etc.
While we place great emphasis on punishing the bullies, I think we would have better results if we helped victims learn HOW to set boundaries, if we helped victims learn they are WORTHY of setting boundaries around their lives.
We must also remember we can’t cross other peoples’ boundaries. No one else is responsible for our own happiness.
I think the worst kind of bondage comes when we are so used to being held down that we blame EVERYTHING in life on the person or the thing that first took away our freedom.
We give up. We give in. We live our life in chains.
Sometimes we have to learn through trial and error that WE really do hold the key. God watches over those who choose Him. He understands our struggles, our mistakes, and He patiently uses those things to grow us, to help us establish boundaries, despite the ill wishes of our enemies.
I’m particularly fond of a line of a poem written by J. R. R. Tolkien:
Not all those who wander are lost.
Those outside our skin may think we’re wandering aimlessly. But what if God has allowed us to take the scenic route for a period? Maybe He wants to grow us. Maybe He wants to teach us.
Maybe in wandering, we find the truth and set our spirits free.