I mentioned in my 2016 Goal Setting post last week that my word for this year is FREE, as God began a major work of freedom in my life in 2015, and I believe that work was only the beginning of the freedom He has in store for me as I venture into a new year. To go after something, we need to know what that ‘something’ is, therefore, if being FREE is my goal, then I feel it’s important to define what exactly being FREE means as I set out to take hold of it in the months to come and make it an everyday part of my life moving forward.
So as I’ve done a lot of exploring. learning, and reading over the topic, here’s how I’m defining what it means to be FREE:
- Resting in what God has done for me (as defined by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan at the 2015 Influence Conference), and
- Discovering my identity and purpose in Jesus and tearing down every stronghold that opposes my ability to walk in the fullness of that identity and purpose (as defined by The Freedom Class Manual: Knowing Christ Intimately: Experiencing Life Abundantly).
A question you might have for me is, “Why FREE?” And here’s my answer:
For years, I have struggled with the following strongholds: anxiety / depression / panic attacks, control, and perfectionism.
Toward the end of 2014 and throughout the majority of 2015, I finally had enough of the anxiety / depression / panic attacks I was battling on a regular basis, that I decided to get the help I so desperately needed: counseling and medication. I remember bawling my eyes out at my first counseling appointment and in the appointment with my family practitioner, as I spilled my guts out about how I couldn’t handle the tension and pain and exhaustion it took to “keep it all together” anymore and I just wanted to feel “normal” again and no longer live under a weight of doom I was feeling almost everyday. In short, I had come to the end of myself and surrendered to letting go of trying to handle it in my own strength, and let God take the lead, the role He was asking me to take all along. And by His grace and the help of amazing and compassionate professionals, I have not had a bout of anxiety / depression / panic in months. Praise God.
What this healing and freedom work further revealed to me, though, are my struggles with control and perfectionism, which I believe is at the root of my anxiety / depression / panic. Basically, feeling anxious, depressed, and having panic attacks are the results of having a personality that very much strives to maintain control and be perfect in every area of my life. Here are a few examples of what this has looked like for me over the years: over-achievement in school and work, keeping a perfectly clean home all of the time, having a specific place and time for things and not allowing for change or things to get out-of-order, needing to work out and not eat after 6 pm everyday to maintain fitness and stay thin, being in bed by 9 pm at the latest to ensure I get at least 8 hours of sleep every night, making list after list after list of things to do to keep the pressure on me and ‘motivate’ me to get stuff done and achieve my goals, etc.
Now, these things aren’t necessarily bad things – a clean house is a lovely thing to come home to each day, having things organized and in order makes life a little easier, cultivating healthy eating and exercise habits and getting enough sleep is good for our bodies and minds – BUT, when not done from a place of grace and love for God, others, and self, these things can become destructive. The expectation that everything has to be “just so or else” all of the time is ridiculous because, let’s face it, life happens and absolutely NOTHING is or ever will be perfect on this side of heaven. To think anything could actually be perfect by my actions alone is my own attempt at playing God and that is just plain blasphemous, for which I believe the consequences of living and operating like this are the negative feelings and experiences I named above.
So, the next logical question in the face of knowing this is, “How do I break free from the cycle of control and perfectionism?”
I fully believe that the way to this is embracing the freedom I have in Christ – choosing to fully live, rest, and walk-in the freedom He accomplished for me on the cross and knowing my true identity and purpose in Him so that my life is focused on Him and the eternal prize He has for me and not these superficial things (a clean house, a fit body, etc.) that will only fade and wither with time.
One commitment I have made toward this goal /vision for the new year is attending a 10 week Freedom class offered by our church (using the manual I referenced above). I’ve glanced over the content and know this is exactly what I need to start off this year in the right direction. I am so thankful to be in community that encourages and spurs its people on toward the freedom we have in Him.
As I have prayed over 2016 and where God is leading, I have heard Him say, “Hannah, this is the year of breakthrough and freedom. In Me, you are already free. Believe me and trust me for this freedom and it will be yours, each and every day.”
Friends, I want to be FREE. I want to wake up every morning with the belief, knowledge, and joy that I am FREE and that I already have everything I need to live FREE. I no longer want to live under the weights of guilt, insecurity, pressure and shame that keeps me focused on things that don’t really matter and striving toward something that is unattainable. I want my life to be less about what is seen and more about what is unseen – the deeper and richer things of Him and His kingdom.
2016. The year of breaking FREE. This is only the beginning, and I can’t wait to see what God does with my life as I lay down all that I am at His feet and surrender myself to His will and ways. I will be sure to check-in with updates on how it’s going as I walk with Him in this over the months to come.
Thanks for following along, friends, and allowing me to be bold and vulnerable in this space. He is so good and I am so thankful that He takes what is messy and imperfect, and makes it more beautiful and put together than we could ever imagine. Adventure awaits.
:: image ::