Some of you may recall my blog post about selecting a “word of the year” in lieu of conjuring up a New Year’s resolution or specific goal for 2011. I chose freedom.
Freedom is something I’ve struggled with my whole life–both allowing the freedom of others and of myself, too. Through a combination of circumstances, traumatic experiences, and lessons learned by observation, I unfortunately came to the conclusion that gaining control was the best possible choice. It kept me in check. It kept me safe. It kept me comfortable. At the least, it gave me the illusion of these things, and that worked for me for a while.
I’ll admit it–I’m a recovering control freak. Tried to force people to change? Check. Attempted to make people love me? Check. Forced myself to hide feelings (even from myself) in order to appear “just fine?” Check. Worked long hours and poured myself into jobs in order to perfectly execute my plans for success? Check. Beat myself up for mistakes and failures rather than focusing on the present moment (something I have the power to change, versus the past)? Check.
When it comes to control, I’ve been there, done it. All of it. And slowly but surely, I am letting go and letting God and realizing that when I do, I feel more free than before.
This year, I read a book called “Boundaries in Marriage” by Cloud and Townsend. I decided that if I want a healthy relationship, I needed to analyze my part in my past fumbles and focus on self-growth to prevent similar slips. The book reiterated things I’d already dealt with emotionally and spiritually–it didn’t really cover much new ground because I have forced myself to look in the mirror over the past four years and take a good hard look at Bethany, for better or worse. I’ve worked through the worse and moved toward the better slowly but surely.
As a former control freak, though, I really spent some time considering the concept set forth in the book regarding the collaboration of love, freedom, and responsibility.
“Finally, it is all about love. As Jesus has told us, the two greatest commandments hang on the ultimate reality of Love. And this is the biggest misunderstanding that we find when talking about Boundaries. Many people think that boundaries are about selfishness and are at their root, self-serving. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Boundaries are about freedom, and freedom is always meant to have as its ultimate fruit, love. As Paul says, and we would echo to anyone who uses boundaries in a self-serving way, You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature ; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Gal. 5:13,14) Boundaries are about God’s restoring freedom to you and me so that we could take control of our lives to be able to love Him and others. Ultimately, that is the fruit of boundaries, to love our of freedom, and with purpose.” –Cloud and Townsend, http://www.cloudtownsend.com/library/articles/7articles6.php.
Being in a relationship with someone I trust, and who trusts me, has helped me learn to let go of my need for control. I don’t need to control him because he is responsible and controls himself, and I control myself. We are both responsible to God, and to each other, and because we behave responsibly and respect each other’s boundaries, we give each other the freedom to live life fully, completely, and joyfully. And feeling free causes us to feel more in love with each other every day. So we, in turn, continue acting responsibly in our relationship because of our love for each other.
It’s a beautiful cycle, and it’s set me free. I’ve heard it said that freedom’s never really free–someone pays the price. If I hadn’t sacrificed tears, prayers, and hard work, I’d be right where I used to be–in a cramped cage, feeling (but not being) very safe and in control. If I hadn’t been in that cage for so long, I might not appreciate the feeling of flying.