Change and Freedom

I have done this many times before. I have just quit and moved on to the next chapter. This is how things usually work with me. I commit myself to something and persevere at that commitment for many years. Then, eventually, I begin to sense a change is in the air. It usually begins subtly. But the impression of it grows and grows until the situation I’m in becomes constrictive. It begins to feel like a trap, a prison, a bondage. I must be free again. I must be liberated from this present situation. This is not to say that the former situation is bad. It isn’t a judgment on the past situations. It has just become something no longer my home, but a prison.

It’s never a rash decision, although it is always a sudden one. The decision is usually preceded by months or even years of discernment and internal struggle. It is usually followed by a time of sadness. But I have always asked for perfect clarity before I make the decision. Invariably it comes. Sometimes it comes in the words of another. Sometimes it comes in a dream. Sometimes it comes as a flash of insight in my mind. But the clarity I await always comes. If I wait patiently. It is always very clear.

I’ve had many people over the years, and recently, say to me something like, “I wish I could do that… just up and leave! I feel so trapped.” That’s not true. You are not trapped. You are actually free. I have discovered that in the evening I may feel despairingly trapped. But perfect clarity comes in the night. Then the feeling of absolute liberty comes in the morning. I have discovered a marvelous secret: I am never trapped. For my freedom does not depend on my situation, but on my state of mind. I am always free. No matter what my surrounding conditions are. I am free. I am certain of this. And once my mind comes to that peaceful realization that I am free, all kinds of things can happen very suddenly. Sometimes it takes some effort and just a little courage to manifest this freedom outwardly. But once you’ve done it once, you will know what I mean.

You are free!

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  • Tess

    Ah… Now this I understand very well.

    Every time I’ve ever left a job it has been like this. You struggle for years to make it work then suddenly you wake up one morning and you know you’ve been freed from the burden.

    And then sometimes you can wake up one morning and realise you’re suddenly able to walk away from your entire career, as I did a year ago.

    And when God acts in this way, these moments are associated with such joy that no one could possibly understand unless they’ve at some time committed wholeheartedly to an idealistic dream of making something happen, getting all embroiled and churned up by the process and then being released at the other end.

    The odd thing is, that even though we know it will always end this way, we always begin again. Not because ‘this time it will be different’, but because this is what we were made for, and we can do no other.

  • This is encouraging. I am in the middle of a transition myself that has taken a couple years and probably a couple more.

    This is a good reminder that as I press on the former is not trapping me in. I am free.

  • fat radical

    To people who say “I wish I could do that… just up and leave! I feel so trapped.” I want to shout “YOU HAVE A CHOICE!!!”
    This realisation is the first step to freedom, life & peace.

  • Echoes of Steve Brown. I suggest reading “A Scandalous Freedom” if you haven’t already. It was the book that started it all for me.

    Tess, do you have a blog? If you do, I want to read it. Beautiful commentary.

    David, I loved this post. I identify with it…especially through the medium of charismatic Christianity which, for me, was at first liberating and finally imprisoning. Ultimately, as a result, I decided to get brutally honest, come out, and start all over again. When will this become my prison, I wonder.

    I’m reminded of a quote by Sir Frances Bacon: “The zeal which begins with hypocrisy must conclude in treachery; at first it deceives, at last it betrays”. When we are zealous for anything…any way of life, any ideology, anything…and that zeal comes from without us instead of within us (i.e. it comes from a book, a teacher, a role model, a parent, an impassioned sermon, etc…) we ultimately betray ourselves. And the deeper we get into our zeal, the freedom that it offered in the beginning is slowly replaced by chains.

    I have a new zeal now (and a new freedom) and even as I type this I’m searching myself for its origins. I wonder if it will one day enslave me as the zeal birthed in the charismatic Christian church ultimately did. Getting free is one thing…staying free is something different.

  • Good words. I find that when I think about the possibility of looking for a different job, my first thought is that I will give up a lot of flexibility, and that I will be stuck in some kind of 9-5 cube farm existence. That is a trapped feeling, but it also assumes that only a 9-5 cube can be expected.

    I have to think outside that, and I thank you for the reminder to do so.

  • Tess

    @Trey: Good insights! In my early twenties I also spent time in a charismatic church, and after five years of struggling to fit their box, I realised one day: ‘I don’t have to put up with this’.

    My assumption from that point on has always been that every passionate zealous endeavour would eventually lead to a sense of claustrophobia, resignation, surrender and rebirth… but does it have to be this way? Your comment offers the hope that there is a place or vocation for each of us that not only fits who we are now, but is also flexible enough to support whomever we might become.

    Trouble is, we typically won’t find out for a decade or two :). And does it really matter anyway?

    You flatter me and ask whether I blog. As it happens I’m just setting one up. Look out for in a few days.

  • Ah yes Steve Brown. He interviewed me a while ago:

  • Tess, I will keep a look out for your blog. Your “assumption” above is revelation to me…someone who finds himself in that cycle constantly…just replacing one zealous endeavor for another. “Does it really matter, anyway?” I don’t know. I think it does for some…when the self-deceit becomes so great that it seems we can’t find out who we are no matter how much we try.

    David, I had no idea that Steve had interviewed you! I will definitely listen to the podcast later today.

  • Good points David – my hope is that one of the silver linings of this recession is that people can pursue their dreams because they were forced out of a job that in hindsight, they hated. I no longer feel weird for being a broke ass writer. 🙂

  • *Love* this post!

  • I understand this. And what I’ve learned is that I have to let go of what I have before I can see clearly what is next.

  • dean hansen

    loved that dave the lord thy god shall lead thee withersoever thou shalt go,,4 sure man.

  • Wow David you sound really content. Sorta like Paul–no matter where he was, he was content…in prison, wherever…I kind of want to smack him.

    I know what feeling trapped is like. (doesn’t everyone) So does my husband, maybe even more so than me…because I have a chronic illness, he’s basically the sole breadwinner.

    I don’t think he really likes his job. I think he’d like to go independent or contracting (he’s in I.T.). He dreams of jobs in faraway lands (New Zealand for example) So, it’s a big struggle–

    How does one make changes when it would require such a sea change to do so?

  • Hi Kathy!
    If I may presume to answer your question before David does, the way I’ve made major changes in my life (giving up my career, moving to another country) was by keeping in mind the dream or vision of what I longed for, and then one day – maybe years later – waking up and realising there was no longer anything stopping me. It’s electrifying to suddenly realise you’re free after years of longing. God is a good God.

  • Thanks Tess.

  • Hi Kathy (and everyone else, including Tess!):

    I’ve done this several times, like I said. I’ve quit without knowing what’s next. We’ve moved as a family all over the place. Sometimes we had no money. Other times, money would show up in the nick of time… just enough to get us to the next place. Anything is possible! I look back on the times we did this and they were exhilarating times of happiness and adventure!

    I have a very good friend with a wife and two kids. They decided to sell everything and take the money and travel around the world for a whole year. Sometimes they couch-surf. Other times they get a motel room. They aren’t worried about “down the road”. They are having the happiest days of their lives right now. They meet with the same reactions: “I wish we could do what you guys are doing!” The thing is we can!

    I think Tess (above) has done something similar. It’s called alternative living. And it’s fun and free.

    Just do it and you’ll discover how easy and how great an adventure it can be!

  • While I have a certain longing for that sort of freedom, i.e. selling all, traveling for extended periods etc., just reading your first paragraph in your response above David sent chills of fear into me….that uncertainty, after so much uncertainty in my past, fills me with dread rather than exhilaration.

  • Kathy: Understood. To each his or her own. I suppose I’d rather freedom than certainty. Sometimes you can’t have both I’ve realized.